China's battle with 'dark water armies'

Posters for the movie Asura at a Beijing subway station. Costing more than US$110 million, Asura was the most expensive film wholly made by a Chinese studio. But it was pulled after earning just over US$7 million in its opening weekend - a move the f
Posters for the movie Asura at a Beijing subway station. Costing more than US$110 million, Asura was the most expensive film wholly made by a Chinese studio. But it was pulled after earning just over US$7 million in its opening weekend - a move the film-makers blamed on a "water army".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chinese state media had hailed it as the country's answer to Lord Of The Rings. The fantasy film Asura was meant to be the biggest hit of the year but became its fastest flop. Despite costing more than US$110 million (S$150 million), the most expensive film wholly made by a Chinese studio was pulled from cinemas after earning just over US$7 million in its opening weekend. Equally unprecedented was the film-makers' explanation for the flop, blaming it on a mysterious "water army".

That's the name given in China to the hordes of fake online accounts used by companies and celebrities to inflate their social media followings or criticise rivals - so-called because they "pour water" into the online discourse.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'China's battle with 'dark water armies''. Subscribe