‘Propaganda’: Influencers Face Backlash After Shilling For Chinese Clothing Company Accused Of Human Rights Abuses

Screenshot / NBC News

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Jake Smith Contributor
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A group of American social media influencers are facing backlash after a promotional visit to a massive Chinese fashion company’s warehouse, which has been accused of human rights violations and forced labor.

TikTok and Instagram influencers were invited to one of Shein’s clothing factories in China on June 15 to promote the brand’s working conditions and safe-labor practices, according to NBC. The promotion was met with backlash, as Shein has been accused of human rights violations, forced labor and poor sustainability standards, leading many influencers to take down their posts about the trip.

The six influencers were offered a fully compensated trip last week to Shein’s “innovation center” in Guangzhou, China, to tour the facility and share their thoughts online, NBC reported. Videos posted by the influencers show them talking to workers while walking through the factory.

“I feel more confident than ever with my partnership with Shein,” wrote Instagram influencer Dani Carbonari in the caption of a now-removed Instagram video, Business Insider reported. “There are so many companies not taking half the initiative Shein is.”

Another influencer, Destene Sudduth, said in a video that conditions in the factory looked “normal,” and that the workers were “chill” and “not even sweating.”

“I expected this facility to be filled with people slaving away. I was pleasantly surprised that most things were robotic,” said Sudduth. “Everybody was just working like normal.”

The social media promotion of Shein’s brand was met with backlash online, with people scolding the influencers for boosting the Chinese company’s image while ignoring the numerous accusations made against the company for human rights violations and abusive working conditions. (RELATED: Americans Are Increasingly Hooked On Chinese-Tied Apps, Not Just TikTok: REPORT)

“They only invited people with zero critical thinking, eating this propaganda up!” one user wrote on Twitter.

“With this PR stunt, Shein is trying to position itself and fight against the reputation that it has as a fast fashion behemoth that is exploitative and careless in how it thinks about the ethics along its supply chain,” said fashion consultant Shivika Sinha to

Most of the influencers who went on the trip have now apologized or taken their videos about the tour down. One influencer posted an apology with the caption, “If you have any further questions ASK SHEIN AND NOT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Shein has thousands of factories across China – only one of which the influencers visited – and has been accused of multiple human rights and ethics violations. Even workers with two jobs don’t make more than roughly 10,000 yuan ($1,380 USD) a month, according to investigative reports by Public Eye.

Shein is also accused of sourcing materials from the Xinjiang region, which houses internment camps that force hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities into cotton or textile labor, according to Bloomberg.

Members of Congress have asked Shein to respond to these “credible allegations” and “are demanding transparency and seeking independent verification – free from state influence – that the company does not use Uyghur forced labor,” according to a letter sent by lawmakers.

Shein has denied most of these allegations, stating that the company abides by ESG guidelines and does not source cotton from the Xinjang region.

Shein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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