Failures

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
china, free speech, social media

Companies:
marriott



Marriott Freezes Its Social Media Globally, And Makes Grovelling Apology To China, All For A Drop-Down Menu And Liking A Tweet

from the rectification-of-names dept

As Techdirt readers are well aware, China is rapidly growing more powerful, both economically and politically. Its economic rise has been clear enough for some time, not least in its technological prowess. Its political might, however, has only recently become more evident, as it begins to assert itself in various ways around the world. China's sense of its own power, and its increasing impatience with anyone that dares to go against it, is nicely illustrated in a recent incident. It concerns a drop-down menu and a like on a tweet, both belonging to the "global lodging company" Marriott International, which issued the following corporate statement a few days ago:

Marriott International respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite: First, by incorrectly labelling certain regions within China, including Tibet, as countries in a drop-down menu on a survey we sent out to our loyalty members; and second, in the careless "like" by an associate of a tweet that incorrectly suggested our support of this position [that Tibet is a country in its own right]. Nothing could be further from the truth: we don't support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups. We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologize.

In addition to this grovelling apology, Marriott publicly punished itself by shutting down large chunks of its digital activities, as China Daily, the English-language news organ of the Chinese government, reported:

After identifying its errors, the company has taken the survey offline, "unliked" the post, shut down its six websites and apps in Chinese, and put a freeze on its social media across the world. The CEO has volunteered to issue an apology.

It has also terminated the contract with the third-party vendor that built the survey, a Canadian company that Marriott has been working with for a long time, and with the US-based employee who "liked" the tweet.

It's not clear whether Marriott was ordered directly to take these actions, or decided to carry them out voluntarily. Either way, it's striking that Marriott is apologizing so abjectly for actions taken in the US and Canada -- not in China -- and even shut down its social media activity globally, for a while. That's a striking demonstration of China's reach today: no matter where something happens, if the Chinese authorities don't like it, they now expect businesses that want to work in China to come up with a "rectification plan" for these slips, just as Marriott has done, according to China Daily. That's probably a reference to a concept in Confucian philosophy, the "rectification of names", which means making words correspond to reality -- in this case, the policies of the Chinese government. An article in Business Insider notes that other multinationals have received loud and clear the message China wishes to send by its humiliation of Marriott:

A number of international companies, including Zara, Marriott, Qantas, and Delta Air Lines, have apologized to China in the last week for listing Taiwan and Hong Kong as "countries" on their websites.

Zara, Marriott and Delta Air Lines all deleted references to these regions as countries and were publicly reprimanded by Chinese authorities, while Qantas discovered and fixed the same type of "error" during a routine review of its website.

Expect much more of this kind of thing, as a newly-confident, and increasingly arrogant, China starts to swing its weight around. It will doubtless seize on even the most trivial "hurt", real or perceived, as a pretext for humbling Western companies and thus, implicitly, their governments -- just as they did to China once upon a time.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    justok (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 10:53am

    第一篇文章

    第一篇文章

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:00am

    Christ. I don't get pissed off every time I see Massachusetts listed under a "State" dropdown when CLEARLY we're a Commonwealth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      I'm eager to start seeing "New California" in state lists...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:52pm

      Re:

      Well it's our founders own fault for calling it the United STATES of America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 4:34am

        Re: Re:

        Agreed. Motion to rename the country The 46 United States, 4 United Commonwealths, and Variety of United Territories of America.


        (Snark aside, and I would really love if someone has an example of this: in these sort of drop down menus, is Puerto Rico listed as a separate country?)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:07am

    Imagine in the U.S...

    If someone (mistakenly or intentionally) labeled Texas a separate country, we'd all just chuckle and get on with our daily lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:18am

      Re: Imagine in the U.S...

      sure but your tenuous grip over perception isn't all that separates Texas from being it's own country :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:18am

      Re: Imagine in the U.S...

      Or Quebec.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re: Imagine in the U.S...

        Or Scotland.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        justok (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:36pm

        Re: Re: Imagine in the U.S...

        Quebec is already a Nation. Quebec City is the National Capital.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Imagine in the U.S...

          Much like US definition of "state", the word for what everyone applies to "countries." (Including much of the US federal government: Secretary of State, State Department, etc.)

          Or "America" for that matter. The term for the New World - starting with modern-day South America - for about 270 years before some revolutionaries in the British colonies adopted it and claimed to represent all of it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 5:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Imagine in the U.S...

            I don't think they ever claimed to represent all of it.

            They called their new federation "the united states of America", i.e., a federation made by uniting American nations together into one polity.

            It's only later on that the forces of linguistic evolution and the inexorable tendency towards verbal shorthand led people to abbreviate this name as "America", rather than as e.g. "the United States"; the latter is in fact still used, but the former has the insurmountable advantage of being shorter, both in letter count and in syllable count.

            I agree that the result is an unfortunate over-broad claim of what might be called "name territory", but I don't think anyone did it intentionally; I think it's just a natural development from an unobjectionable name which people choose without realizing what would develop from it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Jan 2018 @ 2:52pm

      Re: we'd all just chuckle and get on with our daily lives.

      It’s all fun and games until somebody fires the first shot at Fort Sumter...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 9:03pm

      Re: Imagine in the U.S...

      Might be different if it was only a few years since we had acquired it...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 10:19am

      Re: Imagine in the U.S...

      A better comparison would be Puerto Rico. How should it be listed on a website drop-down list? Is it a separate country from the United States? Is it in the US, but a territory? Or should it be listed as a US state?

      However, I don't see the US getting upset at a Chinese hotel chain for mis-labeling Puerto Rico. Then again, the US doesn't have the political history as China and Tibet or China and Taiwan.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 8:40pm

      Re: Imagine in the U.S...

      Many Texans might even agree.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    peter, 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:24am

    A new internet trope

    Where you attempt to correct your mistake so thoroughly that it draws more attention to the mistake than the mistake itself..

    Now known as a "Self-Streisand". (Sorry Mike)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 22 Jan 2018 @ 11:55am

    I wonder if Hitler and the Nazis prevailed, how many US companies would be doing business with them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 12:32pm

    I'm not sure what the issue is here. Marriott bungled a couple of things on its media websites, apologized, and took the pages down while they review their sites.

    This is the price of doing business with other nations. US companies cannot resist the temptation of reaching billions of potential new customers.

    If a company has to bow and kiss the feet when delivering apologies, I seriously doubt this action is worse than losing those potential profits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 22 Jan 2018 @ 1:26pm

    Taiwan

    Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia. Its neighbors include the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the west, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Taiwan is the most populous state and largest economy that is not a member of the United Nations.

    How is it not a "Country"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 1:31pm

      Re: Taiwan

      You forgot market size and hardware supply line size.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 2:06pm

      Re: Taiwan

      Because China noticed and threw a big tantrum about it, and Marriott bent over and fixed their "mistake".

      You know it's a country. I know it's a country. Marriott knows it's a country. Except China's too used to getting it's One China way or else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 5:24pm

      Re: Taiwan

      Of course, it's not nearly as simple as that.

      The situation depends on whose viewpoint you adopt.

      According to the Taipei government, there is only one China. It is called the "Republic of China", and encompasses all of China, including both the mainland and the island of Taiwan. The capital is Taipei.

      According to the Beijing government, there is only one China. It is called the "People's Republic of China", and encompasses all of China, including both the mainland and the island of Taiwan. The capital is Beijing.

      Third parties may have third views.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 5:52pm

      Re: Taiwan

      It's complicated. Both the People's Republic of China (China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) officially claim both the island of Taiwan and mainland China as part of their territory. At the moment, they are in a bit of a miniature cold war, China unwilling to make a move militarily to enforce their claim on Taiwan due to potential international repercussions as well as possible internal issues, while Taiwan is not strong enough to enforce their claim on China even if they wanted to. At the moment, China is pretending that the Taiwanese government is acting under Chinese authority (as otherwise they would be legally obligated to invade) and Taiwan is deliberately avoiding drawing too much attention to themselves.

      As part of this, China has cut off diplomatic relations with any country which recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign entity. At the moment, I believe there are only 19 nations which still do so (none of much international significance).

      So as far as it being a "country," it really depends on your definition. It is legally acknowledged as a country by itself, and 19 other countries. It has a government and control over part of the territory it claims (Taiwan, but not mainland China). Further, the US and EU (along with several others) have informal diplomatic relations with it (which are part of the reason China has left it alone).That's the good news.

      But every other country in the world (including the US, EU, China and Russia which are the world powers at the moment) do not consider it a country. It's the largest "country" not in the UN because it can't get into the UN. Almost nobody in the UN acknowledges that they're a country.

      But this is all international politics. The Marriot is a US based company. The US says Taiwan is not a country. Nearly all of their business is in countries which say Taiwan is not a country. Ergo, if prompted they'll say Taiwan is not a country. It's what their home country says, it's what their business partners say, it's what they say.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 4:04am

        Re: Re: Taiwan

        It's complicated. Both the People's Republic of China (China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) officially claim both the island of Taiwan and mainland China as part of their territory.

        And that encapsulates the problem with politics, politicians wish to rule, and do not wish to co-operate. It is an attitude that leads to Empire, and show up in treaty negotiations, where the objective is to rule, rather than find a basis for cooperation; i.e. the US position on IP.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 10:59pm

        Re: Re: Taiwan

        Odd that it’s not recognized as a country when Taiwan prints passports under their own name and those passports are recognized in nearly every country around the world. Texas and Puerto Rico, as referenced earlier, do not have their own passports.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 1:41pm

    India banned Windows 95 when it was discovered that the time zone map had a few pixels of the disputed Kashmir region allocated to Pakistan.

    The ban was lifted when Microsoft produced an Indian version with the map removed altogether.... and promised that future versions for the rest of the world would have it removed too.

    Big markets bring power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Jan 2018 @ 1:49pm

    Country Or Not ...

    ... it seems it matters ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 22 Jan 2018 @ 1:51pm

    Silver Lining

    On the plus side, that US employee they fired has a slam-dunk case for wrongful termination. He can cash in, big time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 2:02pm

    Remember when US companies had a spine?

    ...Pepperidge Farms remembers.

    I have such a difficult time respecting these US companies that are so easily cowed and so meekly lower themselves to tonguing the sphincters of the leadership of other nations all in the name of chasing yet more profit. I know my dollar won't be missed by them when I am unable to bring myself to support their corporations, but it really is so very sad to watch. Good luck, Marriott, I'll just find another place to crash for the night.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Jan 2018 @ 2:54pm

      Re: so meekly lower themselves to tonguing the sphincters of the leadership of other nations all in the name of chasing yet more profit

      Because back in the Days of Empire, they wouldn’t have asked nicely, they would have just taken it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 5:58pm

      Re: Remember when US companies had a spine?

      I can't really fault them for following the US government's stance on this issue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 5:21pm

    Possibly the only time I've supported Google's actions in abandoning the market when they refused search result filtering. It'd be nice if more companies had the balls to do it, and to stand up for what's right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2018 @ 8:20pm

    So Marriott just said they completely support the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Neat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 6:39am

    " and increasingly arrogant, China"

    Learned from the best, haven't they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 12:10pm

    America: SOLD

    for the love of goatse!
    I'm givin her all she's got Captain. We can't bend over any harder.

    I guess when China annexes Taiwan and Japan next year, we'll just say "This is fine" (in Mandarin Chinese, of course).

    God bless the people of China, but their Communistic government is completely off the rails.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2018 @ 12:24pm

    Jesus Christ. They practically bent over, spread their cheeks and moaned for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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