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Great Wall Motor Co. wants to fight internet trolls. It is ready to pay cash rewards to people at large who expose such internet trolls. The company even recently announced a $1.5 million program for people who highlight trolling directed against any Chinese auto company. But the entire initiative appears to have backfired with people online telling GWM to use the money to make better cars instead.
GWM has had the right intentions - take on toxic discourse in the world of social media that particularly targets Chinese automotive companies. The company has wanted people's participation in hitting back against organised and paid trolling activities. It even cited the example of an electric vehicle (EV) fire where, according to the company, the driver set the vehicle ablaze and then blamed the battery inside. "These behaviours have damaged the previously fair and honest market environment and goes against the core values of our socialist society," Fu Xiaokang, VP at GWM was quoted as saying at a recent event, by Bloomberg.
But most internet users have ridiculed the money that is set aside to fight internet trolling, pointing out that GWM ought to ensure better cars and technologies using this money. There were also many who accused GWM of hypocrisy, pointing to positive comments around their vehicles on social media often being replicated or multi posted.
China is the world's largest EV market and the competition between global and local manufacturers are becoming increasingly intense. In a space where every inch is being fought for aggressively, social media and the commentary there has a big impact on buying decisions. The Chinese social media is heavily censored but Weibo - China's version of Twitter - has become an active ground for comments in favour or against car models and automotive companies. At a time when Tesla is leading the battle in the market and enjoys a mammoth fan following across the world, including in China, the role of social media discourse is considered pivotal by many.