WeChat rolled out tightened restrictions on sharing external audiovisual links in its Moment feed on May 18, which could have affected all the mainstream video and music platforms in China. Lucky for them, the tech giant has decided to remove the policy just three days later (in Chinese).

“WeChat would further restrict external links to protect users’ privacy and optimize customers’ experience,” reads a statement posted on its WeChat official account on May 18. “External links must not spread content containing audiovisual programs in any form without obtaining related government certificates.”

Update: Direct sharing of videos from Douyin is still banned. Users only can download the video and re-upload on WeChat Moment. We tested Kuaishou, Weibo and Ximalaya. Direct sharing through these apps works well.

If implemented, this could practically have banned links from all the popular sites like Douyin, Kuaishou, Huya, Ximalaya, with the exception of those backed or developed by Tencent. A photo shortlisting all the affected platforms dubbed Tencent’s rule as “the strictest-ever external link policy.”

Apps that were to be affected by the ban (Source: Pingwest)

Although the reasons behind Tencent’s quick shift in attitude is still not clear, its reason for initiating the blow is fairly obvious: to fend off increasing competition from thriving platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou, not only in defense for its home-grown video platforms, but also for its killer app WeChat which is losing users to the emerging rivals.

Tencent’s collision with upcoming competitors is best demonstrated in its fraught relationship with Toutiao. Earlier this month, once low-profile Tencent founder Pony Ma got into a spat with Zhang Yiming, CEO of Douyin parent ByteDance, who accused WeChat of making excuses to block Douyin out of the platform and plagiarizing Douyin with its own short video app Weishi (微视).

Also, the friction goes well beyond the public spat. Douyin has filed a lawsuit against Tencent for defamation and requesting RMB 1 million in damages including an apology.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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