Bytedance goes on a lawsuit spree, sues both Tencent and Baidu on same day

Bytedance just can’t seem to get enough of court hearings. After losing a court battle to Tencent in July last year over copyright violations and suing Baidu and Sogou for unfair competition this year, the Beijing-based company is making its lawyers busy again.

The court in Beijing’s Haidian district has accepted a case brought by Bytedance-operated short video platform Douyin which is suing Tencent for defamation and requesting RMB 1 million in damages including an apology.

The move follows a very public clash between Tencent’s CEO and chairman Pony Ma and founder of ByteDance Zhang Yiming. Just last week, the two tech leaders were caught bickering on WeChat Moments, a feature similar to Facebook’s feed, over Tencent’s decision to suspend direct playback of short videos on WeChat and QQ including Douyin. Zhang then revealed that Bytedance is consulting with legal experts over the matter.

The two tech giants are going to court over an article that was published on WeChat April 2nd berating the Douyin app not only for occupying children’s time but also for regularly publishing videos of children which are sometimes put in dangerous situations for comic effect. The article titled “Douyin, leave the kids alone” (抖音,请放过孩子) was published on the public WeChat account of Fast Mini-Class (快微课), an online platform offering educational video lessons for children, and has since gone viral.

GIF featured in Fast Mini-Class’ article against Douyin (Image credit: Fast Micro Lesson)
GIF featured in Fast Mini-Class’ article against Douyin (Image credit: Fast Micro Lesson)

Douyin’s lawsuit claims that the videos featured in the article were taken from other video platforms and that the article deliberately tried to tarnish Douyin’s image by convincing readers that short videos are harmful to children.

The company is claiming that Tencent should be held responsible for allowing Fast Mini-Class to publish damaging content on WeChat’s platform. Tencent allowed internet users to spread false information on their operating platform without verification and review and infringed the legitimate rights Douyin, the claim states. The lawsuit was accepted by the Haidian court on May 17th.

Update: Tencent has responded to the lawsuit by stating that WeChat official accounts platform has a mechanism for filing infringement complaints. Once verified, it will be dealt with immediately, said the company in a statement. It also noted that Fast Mini-Class has already deleted the article in question. However, TechNode was still able to find it on other WeChat public accounts.

On the same day, the Haidian court also announced it will accept another lawsuit from Bytedance, this time against tech giant Baidu. The lawsuit for copyright infringement was brought by Bytedance’s news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao. Toutiao has accused Baidu of unauthorized streaming of a talk show called Yi Guo Hui (一郭汇) produced by Watermelon Video and Jinri Toutiao. The company is demanding that Baidu stops the infringement, apologizes and compensates them for economic losses in the amount of RMB 80,000.