On Friday, China’s state run TV network, CCTV, called out Apple’s “shady” iPhone replacement policy in its yearly consumer protection show. The show specifically criticised how Apple replaces faulty iPhones with refurbished units instead of new ones. It alleges that this policy isn’t followed in regions like the U.S. and Europe, and is hence discriminatory to Chinese consumers.
While the allegations are legitimate, CCTV undermined all its credibility by allegedly asking celebrities on Chinese social network Weibo to post updates bashing Apple in exchange for money. As reported by TeaLeafNation, Taiwanese-American movie star and spokesperson for Samsung Galaxy, Peter Ho, posted this on Weibo:
Wow, Apple has so many tricks in its after-sales services. As an Apple fan, I’m hurt. You think this would be acceptable to Steve Jobs? Or to those young people who sold their kidneys [to buy iPads]? It’s really true that big chains treat customers poorly. Post around 8:20.
The bold words, in case you didn’t notice, were instructions given to Peter as to when the update has to be posted. He later deleted the update saying that his phone was stolen, during which someone else posted the message. But his “explanation” wasn’t enough to stop the goof up from going viral, with users posting this:
Everyone post this, if you post this it’ll be deleted: Tonight something big happened on Weibo: I’ve heard that CCTV asked several Weibo celebrities to post negative things about Apple around 8:20. As a result, Mr. Liu, Zheng Yuanjie, and their compatriots were outed by Peter Ho’s post at 8:20, so now Peter Ho is pretending his phone was stolen and someone posted on his Weibo, and deleting comments on his Weibo as fast as lightning. Tens of thousands of comments have been trimmed down to a couple thousand. It seems like it’s a race between Peter Ho and these commenters tonight.
The “#PostAround820″ updates started appearing in floods before getting censored from Weibo.
Other celebrities who posted similar updates without the instructions were caught in a similar situation, though they maintained that they weren’t paid by anyone.
While the hate campaign was orchestrated to amplify the outrage against Apple in China, it had the exact opposite effect, despite valid concerns over its replacement policies.