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Fans’ efforts to control online comments might violate law

2021/2/26 9:09:35   source:Global Times

When waking up in the morning, the first thing for college student Han Rui is to check on her idol Lay Zhang's Sina Weibo account and post some repeated comments that praise her idol.

"This is part of our die-hard fans' must-do daily task," Han told the Global Times on Thursday. After finishing the task, Han said she gains a strong sense of group belonging with other stalwart fans.

Han is just one of the fans in the online comment controlling team that "protect" their stars.

The repeated comments on the stars' Weibo are mainly made up of compliments, brightly colored emoji and beautiful photos of the icons. A few meaningful comments can also be seen.

"This is a sign of our unconditional love for our idol. We think she is perfect and do not accept any unfriendly online comments," Wangwang (pseudonym) who is in the Chinese fan club of Lisa, a member of South Korean group Black Pink, told the Global Times on Thursday.

From the column area in Sina Weibo to the film and TV drama reviews on Chinese review site Douban, the fans always occupy the comment areas first, and try to squeeze out any negative comments by liking the repeated positive comments. They also go to review sites to support the films or TV dramas that their idols act in.

For example, Twisted Fate of Love, a Chinese ancient costume drama, gained a score of 7.5/10 on Douban when it was just released in November 2020. Many Chinese netizens said it did not deserve such a high score, and said the result was only due to devoted fans of Jin Han. The drama's rating was later lowered to 6.9 on Douban.

After one netizen raised a question about whether fan influence over online comments is legal, the State Administration for Market Regulation replied on Sunday that the behavior might be violating China's anti-unfair competition law.

According to the law, advertisers, advertising operators and advertisement publishers who violate national regulations and use advertisements for false publicity about goods or services can be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than two years or criminal detention, as well as being fined, Beijing-based lawyer Shen Binti told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The extreme behavior of comment controlling has caused a lot of negative influence, especially for the younger generations, in shaping healthy values," Shen said.

Controlled reviews can severely influence the normal and objective evaluation system, and disrupt the healthy and orderly development of China's film and television industry, she added.

Since social media has become the main avenue for following idols, fans have more diversified ways to obtain information about the celebrities. The rise of the fan economy as well as the immediacy and interactivity of social media have given birth to such unhealthy behavior, some insiders told the Global Times. 

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