Last month, I wrote an op-ed taking a critical eye to the globalization strategy of Bytedance, the Beijing-based parent company of ultra-popular Chinese news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao. Riding a soaring valuation, Bytedance has stated its ambitions to apply their sophisticated AI-based recommendation engine to platforms aimed at overseas markets. In an ideal situation, this technology produces a win-win-win-win scenario in which readers get tailored content, creators reach the right audiences, advertisers efficiently reach their target market, and Bytedance cashes in as well.

While the platform and those in charge of it were certainly not intentionally creating a place for fake news, the issues with the platform come at a time when sensitivity around news content, and its relationship with the online platforms that distribute it, is particularly high. Western democracies are growing increasingly concerned over foreign governments’ attempts to influence voters through online media. For a Chinese news aggregator to succeed in entering those markets at this time, careful navigation will be required.

That being said, there are areas of the overseas internet in which Bytedance’s aggregation and recommendation competencies are sorely needed, and are not particularly sensitive. They just need to pick their spots. 

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Elliott Zaagman

Elliott Zaagman is a contributor to TechNode. He is also a corporate trainer, executive coach, and writer who splits his time between Bangkok and Beijing. He focuses on Chinese companies and how they relate...