Inside Alibaba, the Sharp-Elbowed World of Chinese E-Commerce

According to a March 3, 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal: “Merchants use fake orders, shell storefronts to gain prominence on Alibaba’s marketplaces… Faking orders, or “brushing,” as it is called in China, involves paying people to pretend to be customers. It lets vendors pad their sales figures and, in theory, boost their standing on online marketplaces… The practice is considered a form of false advertising, which is prohibited in the U.S. and China…

Brushing puts Alibaba at risk of further regulatory scrutiny following its $25 billion initial public offering in September, and calls into question the volume of transactions actually conducted on its platforms, a metric analysts cite in saying it is the world’s largest e-commerce platform… Brushing takes aim at Alibaba’s closely guarded search algorithm, a complex formula that determines whether a seller’s listings appear on the first or 50th page.”