Controversial self-media account returns Tencent’s funding after plagiarism outcry

Chaping (差评), literally Bad Reviews, a WeChat self-media account that’s been accused of plagiarism, announced today it is going to return the funding it recently received from Tencent (in Chinese). The two companies have reached a consensus on the matter and going to proceed with the process, local media is reporting.

“Given the recent debates surround Chaping, the team has made an in-depth self-examination and introspection. We believe that it’s inappropriate to receive investment from Tencent before straightening out our copyright practices. Chaping will continue our pursuit for independent development. Learning from the past, we will try to take greater responsibilities in copyright and original content protection,” according to a company statement.

The announcement comes days after the Hangzhou-based media outlet announced that it has received RMB 30 million ($4.7 million) investment from investors that include Tencent Topic Fund, a fund for supporting online content creators, Yunqi Partners and Zhonghuan Venture.

Although Tencent’s share of the deal is not clear, its participation in the investment was enough to anger Chinese online readers, bloggers, and media outlets. The funding was translated as a kind of support for Chaping’s product and value, which is in breach with it’s latest efforts to crack down on plagiarism on its own platforms.

Facing the online furor, Tencent admitted a blunder in due diligence and said it’s reviewing the investment and could cut links with Chaping pending the review, according to Zhang Jun, Tencent’s public relations director.

Tencent, whose early state products were widely seen as copycats, has been trying strenuously to shake off the copycat image over the past few years through investing or acquiring startups rather than just copying their products. Its founder Pony Ma called on legislation to tighten enforcement of China’s IP laws.

In addition, the internet giant is facing a tsunami of troubles last month. A WeChat story went viral early May, criticizing Tencent for “losing its dream”, spending its time seeking investment-worthy apps instead of working on its own products.