Government media in China have recently been reporting on water armies (水军) spreading rumors on the internet and disrupting the online economy. So what are water armies? Water armies are Chinese “PR Firms” that, for a fee, will post reviews about a company or product.


“We mostly work by posting comments or responding to them,” said a member of one such firm. “It costs 7 mao (11 cents) for a posted comment, and 5 mao (8 cents) for a response.” In other words, for a few dollars, you can hire a water army to post thousands of positive reviews.

But that’s not all they can do. One water army listed services ranging from increasing the click-through rate of a website to gathering them more followers on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). They’re also famous for spreading rumors to discredit public figures.

Guo Mei Mei, the rumor that damaged Red Cross's reputation in China.

Recently, two leaders of the water army PR firm Beijing Erma Interactive Marketing and Planning Company were arrested for spreading rumors about major political and cultural leaders in Mainland China. They’ve been accused of starting the Guo Mei Mei scandal that discredited the Red Cross in China.

And at 11 cents a scandal, expect more to come.