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2018-11-06 13:44:48

Chinese video-streaming site iQiyi is suing film review platform Douban for libel after three Douban users posted “false accusations” related to the company’s new variety show “Fantastic Food.” IQiyi has demanded that the platform remove the posts, issue an apology, hand over the users’ personal information, and pay 500,000 yuan ($72,000) in compensation.

The People’s Court of Haidian District in Beijing has accepted the case, which is currently being processed, according to a statement issued Monday.

On Sept. 5, three Douban posts shared links and photos from microblogging platform Weibo that accused almost a dozen male staff members of beating a young female fan of the show at its Australia filming location. By Monday afternoon, all of the posts had been deleted, though web-cached versions show that they received fewer than 100 comments combined.

Neither iQiyi nor any of the three users had responded to Sixth Tone’s interview requests by time of publication. Douban declined to comment on the case. However, after angry Douban users logged in to give the show low ratings following Monday’s accusations, Douban’s official account wrote in a post the same day that its users shouldn’t punish works by giving them bad reviews for reasons unrelated to their quality.

On Sept. 5, the TV show’s Weibo account confirmed that an altercation had occurred at 11 a.m. that day in Australia, and apologized for the “bad influence caused by the crew’s inappropriate behavior.” On Sept. 17, the show apologized on Weibo, posting a statement from an Australian court declaring that though the crew member brought to trial was not one of the main perpetrators, he would be fined 600 Australian dollars ($430) on condition of nine months’ “good behavior recognizance” — a probationary period after which a person can waive their fine if they behave well. According to the court documents, no conviction was recorded.

However, the post also included a document in English from the crew member’s attorney claiming that the crew had not instigated the incident: “Over a period of approximately one month or so, a group of up to 30 or so fans, continued to follow and harass the crew, taking inappropriate photographs, filming and using obscene and derogatory language.”

In another Weibo post, the show added that it would pursue legal action against “false information and maliciously manipulated public opinion” in this case, without elaborating.

Douban has been targeted before by movies or shows that receive bad reviews on its platform. In May, Chinese director Bi Zhifei wrote an open letter in which he accused Douban of manipulating public opinion and condemned critics for labeling his directorial debut, “Pure Hearts: Into Chinese Showbiz,” the “worst movie ever.” In January, the film’s production company had sued Douban, demanding 1 yuan in symbolic compensation for unfair ratings.

Editor: Hannah Lund.

(Header image: A still frame from the TV series ‘Fantastic Food,’ posted on Oct. 19, 2018. From @奇妙的食光 on Weibo)