The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Wu: E-Public Space and Online Viral Marketing: Policy Concerns over 'Pushing Hands' on the Chinese Internet


Online viral marketing, known as “pushing hands” (tuishou in Chinese), has become a de facto practice on the Chinese Internet. It is a form of marketing scheme using using paid posters (tuishous) in covert operations for a variety of commercial and promotional purposes. A tuishou is defined as an agent who organizes a network of individual posters to perform commercial or promotional tasks attempted at setting up debate agendas, swaying netizens’ interest, influencing online opinions, and eventually affecting mass media landscape in China’s public sphere. This new phenomenon poses a serious challenge to the utopian notion of cyberspace being a decentralized public venue where ordinary individuals are enabled to perform horizontal, interactive, diversified and enlightened communication concerning their own issues and interests. Based on the findings of an ethnographic study of tuishou operations in China conducted last summer, one of its first kinds in the Chinese Internet, this paper is mainly concerned with policy issues in relation to the tuishou operation. Why is it problematic? What are the problems it created? Do we have policy solutions for it? If yes, what would be possible ways to define it, set the boundary for it and make it a legitimate and constructive business operation within a healthy environment for civil communication and public interests.

Chinese Internet, Tuishou, Online Viral Marketing, Public Sphere, Policy, Internet Policy
Mei Wu, Chengyu Cao