Egads, who knew there was “terrorism” in the land of Taobao? Apparently, some sellers, mad at new rules that Taobao says makes it harder to fake reviews but they contend is biased against smaller stores, have taken to messing with the system.
According to Shanghai Daily, that involves:
…ordering all their goods and then cancelling them after a few days, in the meantime making the goods unavailable for sale.
Some of them are also clicking repeatedly on the advertisements of other vendors on Taobao.com’s front page.
Each click raises the price vendors have to pay for advertising.
But the increased cost has caused many vendors to cancel their adverts, hitting the Chinese platform’s income.
The fight has been going on since July 8, when Taobao first upgraded its product search algorithm by incorporating seller ratings into the formula for the first time, instead of just buyer ratings. They also cracked down on “ratings fraud,” where stores are closed if they’re suspected of creating most of their own hype.
In fact, that’s what first triggered the Anti-Taobao Alliance to start organizing attacks on the platform. Many argued that they were innocent and Taobao had closed down honest sellers. They added that the one-two punch of Taobao’s algorithm change and “honesty campaign” had shut down way more smaller sellers than larger ones. They also took issue that a preimium service called “Direct Train” allows stores to advertie to a targeted audience – for a premium fee.
In August, about 300 store owners took to the streets, blocking the entrance to Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou. It wasn’t the first attempt to use physical bodies to usher forth a change in Taobao’s policies – they’d tried when the rules were first laid out too. The protest didn’t last long, police had dispersed the crowds by 2pm.
Their online methods of protest, which involve ruining the platform for larger companies (one of Taobao’s largest has had to close until it can stop being attacked by them), is akin to “Internet terrorism,” one vendor said to Shanghai Daily. “Once their chance for competing in an inglorious way is gone, they start to bite innocent people.”
As Stan Abrams of China Hearsay points out, even if they’re in the right, they’re doing something so wrong it negates their position: “Nothing justifies that sort of juvenile, destructive behavior. Indeed, even if these people had actually been treated unfairly by Taobao or cheated in some way, their engaging in what is arguably fraudulent activities is way outside the pale of acceptable behavior.”
Plus, it may be illegal – after all, there are rules against disturbing the operation of companies. It’s not too hard to see how those rules would apply to online companies as well.