Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has accused its main rival JD.com of launching ‘organised attacks’ in the lead up to its popular 11.11 Singles Day event, by publishing thousand of negative news about the company.
In a strongly worded post on Sina Weibo, on November 22, Alibaba’s legal counsel listed 9700 negative posts that were posted by 500 anonymous accounts on social media around Singles Day, of which over 4600 articles accused Alibaba of forcing merchants to choose between the two platforms.
The legal counsel stated that the identical content and style of writing demonstrated that these were ‘organised attacks’ aimed at damaging Alibaba’s reputation, and claimed that these attacks always take place around Alibaba’s major events, especially on Singles Day
As these attacks have already caused reputational and economic damage to Alibaba, said the legal counsel, the company reserves all rights to take legal actions against such criminal activities.
An anonymous blogger then posted on Weibo two posts about agreements between a web research consultancy called China Labs and JD.com on November 23 and 24 to back up the legal counsel’s accusations.
The first post on November 23 claimed that under the terms of a five month agreement, JD.com will pay China Labs $2m Chinese yuan for ‘mobilising social and research resources’, including the publishing of three research reports and papers, and the hosting three seminars, to urge the Chinese government to investigate Tmall’s ‘monopoly status’.
The post claimed that sometime after the agreement was signed, China Labs issued a report detailing Alibaba’s ‘unfair’ competitive practices of forcing merchants to choose between its platform and JD’s, which proved that this was the agreement signed by JD.com and China Lab.
The second post claimed that another agreement between JD.com and China Labs saw the former paying the latter another $600,000 Chinese yuan to provide research on anti-monopoly and the governance of e-commerce platforms. China Labs would then produce one research report and two papers, and host one seminar.
China Labs was founded by Fang Xing Dong, a Chinese web entrepreneur and free-speech activist in 1999. Alibaba alleged that Fang has used China Labs as a platform to sell tailored research reports and public relations services to Chinese companies, violating the consultancy as an independent research body.
After the second post was published online, Alibaba’s legal department released the following statement through its official Weibo account: “We have observed a series of organised, large-scale malicious attacks intended to damage our reputation by propagating false rumors, manipulating public opinions, and making groundless accusations against Alibaba.
“The impact of these attacks are felt beyond our company, impacting the overall climate for business and Internet users in China.
“We will report these cases and provide facts and evidence to law enforcement authorities in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. We believe that the authorities should investigate and punish the criminal groups who believe have illegally profited from propagating such rumours. Our legal actions are not only to protect the interest of Alibaba’s shareholders and users, but also to discourage similar attacks in the future on other businesses.
“We call on all parties adhere to the rule of law to promote the positive development of the overall environment for business and the Internet in China.”
The Drum has reached out to JD.com for its response to Alibaba’s claims, but was yet to receive a response at the time of press.