This is a contributed essay by an Alibaba senior executive on how the e-commerce giant’s cloud computing is being used to fight crime in China.
To understand how big a problem counterfeit and pirated goods represent to business, remember the number $461 billion. That’s the dollar amount that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated for last year’s global trade in fake goods. It’s also right around the level of Sweden’s gross domestic product.
It’s not just the high total that concerns brands, e-commerce platforms and authorities. It’s that the figure — about 2.5 percent of total global trade — has nearly doubled since 2007. As the world’s leading manufacturing center for authentic products, it is unsurprising that China has also been a source of a large share of counterfeits entering the market.
Alibaba’s Taobao, the world’s largest e-commerce platform, has millions of honest vendors selling billions upon billions of yuan of authentic goods every year. But there’s also a minority who traffic in counterfeit goods. That’s bad for Alibaba’s customers, reputation and business. We have long been committed to identifying and eliminating these bad actors from our platform, and it remains a top priority.
While our efforts in intellectual property enforcement have been effective in sharply reducing counterfeit activity, we also have found ourselves engaged in a game of “whack-a-mole” with counterfeiters who go to great lengths to hide their true identity. Driven by attractive profit margins, they’ve tried to adapt to and counter our technological and other efforts to root them out.
We have recently taken a more holistic and technology-driven IPR-enforcement approach, deploying a new app designed to discern patterns in the data, and thereby enable us to better identify and pursue counterfeiters. This is making it much more difficult for these illicit actors to hide.
Last year, in a three-month pilot called “Cloud Sword,” we improved our data modeling to increase the accuracy in finding and deleting listings for counterfeit products. We also improved our network DNA source-tracing to more effectively crack down on counterfeit sellers and their entire supply chain, from upstream to downstream. At the same time, we increased our data quality, enhancing the management of leads for cases we bring to the authorities.
The pilot program involved 11 cities in Zhejiang Province. We provided 385 leads to the Zhejiang Province Economic Investigation Team, leading to the arrest of 300 people under 169 separate cases, involving goods valued at RMB816 million.