Yesterday, CCTV, China’s state-run television network, aired a report about Apple questioning the company’s integrity. Rather than calling Apple’s reputation into question, CCTV’s plan quickly backfired on itself when it was discovered that it had asked a celebrity to post anti-Apple remarks on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
Peter Ho, a Taiwanese-American actor and spokesman for Samsung, accused Apple of being biased against Chinese consumers in its warranty and customer service policies in a poorly-edited post on Weibo. He wrote:
#315isLive# Wow, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services. As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. You think this would be acceptable to Steve Jobs? Or to those young people who sold their kidneys [to buy iPads]? It’s really true that big chains treat customers poorly. Post around 8:20.
It’s the last sentence that called into question CCTV and Peter Ho’s message. Weibo users immediately speculated about what it meant and some noted that a strange flood of negative posts about Apple began appearing on the website after 8:20pm. Ho was accused of being paid by CCTV to post his message as part of a coordinated campaign to bash Apple.
Ho eventually deleted the post and claimed that his phone was stolen and his account was hacked. Despite his denials, reactions went viral with many users publishing under a #PostAround8:20 hashtag, which has since been disabled.
One microblogger sarcastically wrote, “Would the all-powerful CCTV please tell us which brands haven’t discriminated against the people of this Heavenly Kingdom? Post around 8:20.”
Weibo and CCTV have worked together in the past to coordinate discussions on the social networking site, with high profile Weibo users being asked to comment after programming or give their opinions on certain issues, according to a person who had been approached in a similar situation. The person also said that neither CCTV nor Weibo offers to pay or scripts comments for these high profile people.
CCTV’s credibility has been called into question on other occasions as well. “The credibility for CCTV is hitting a bad point,” Qiao Mu said, the director of the Center for International Communication Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
A spokeswoman for Apple said, “Our team is always striving to exceed our customers’ expectations, and we take any customer concerns very seriously.”
Image Credit: Dawn