Making the Impossible Possible: China’s Disinformation Industry

All Abstracts > Making the Impossible Possible: China’s Disinformation Industry

Making the Impossible Possible: China’s Disinformation Industry

Author | Affiliation:
Mei Nelson | Accenture Security iDefense

Presenting at:
2B | China’s digital communication industry and its discontent


As the largest online community in the world, China not only has the biggest Internet population, but also has the most active users of “We Media” or participatory media platforms which generate and distribute information online. As “ordinary citizens, empowered by digital technologies that connect knowledge throughout the globe, are contributing and participating in their own truths, their own kind of news”(Bowman & Willis, 2003, p.v) , an underground economy in China takes advantage of the reach of the Internet, the convenience of digital platforms, and the multifaceted We Media information flow and provides services through fabricating, alternating, and spreading disinformation. Since the early 2000s, China’s disinformation industry, represented by so-called gray and black public relations (PR) firms, has monitored the development of digital technologies so it can update its influence and intrusion measures. In the meantime, operators within the disinformation industry collude with insiders working for online platforms and utilize the skills of cybercriminals and other hackers seeking maximum profits. In the past five years, disinformation-for-hire services in China have experienced a growth trend, now hired to operate globally by more and more sophisticated groups who are supportive of government policies.

This presentation will focus on the ecosystem of the disinformation-for-hire industry in China to examine actors, behaviors, and contents of disinformation campaigns and the driving factors of this underground economy. The presentation also looks into the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by “black PR” firms in China through several case studies. Lastly, the presentation will review the relevant Chinese laws and regulations focused on curbing the disinformation industry and will provide countermeasures for companies operating in China to mitigate the negative impact of disinformation on business operations.


Bowman, Shayne & Willis, Chris (2003). We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and information. Retrieved from

About the author

Mei Nelson


Mei Nelson is a Security Principal at Accenture Security/iDefense. She focuses on East Asia cyber threat analysis and political, strategic and economic affairs. Mei is a board member of RSA Conference Security Scholar Program. She holds a MS in Management of Secure Information Systems from George Mason University. Mei has previously spoken at CODE BLUE Conference in Tokyo, DragonCon in Hong Kong, and the Chinese Internet Research Conference at Leiden University, the Netherlands and National University of Singapore.

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