Tencent’s public relations director Zhang Jun has criticized Bytedance’s news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao for its information proliferation practices, according to local media.
Zhang said that the aggregator had attributed an article that was critical of Tencent and it’s gaming division to Xinhua News Agency when it was published by Xinhuanet.com. The report stated that online games harm young people and children and that Tencent seemed to be indifferent to their negative effects.
The article, first published by Xinhuanet.com, was pushed by Toutiao under its original headline. However, the article was later picked up by Baidu News and published under an alternative headline that included the name Xinhua News Agency. Toutiao then pushed the report posted by Baidu News, attributing it to Xinhua News Agency.
Zhang responded by saying that Xinhua News Agency had not reported on the effects of gaming, but on Tencent’s new data center in Guizhou.
Zhang did not call out Baidu News for the wrongful attribution and the spat highlights growing tensions between Tencent, Toutiao, and its parent company, Bytedance.
In May 2018, Tencent’s Pony Ma and Bytedance’s Zhang Yiming were found bickering on WeChat about Bytedance’s short video app Douyin (called TikTok overseas). Zhang said that even though WeChat had blocked Douyin’s short videos on its platform, it would not stop the company’s growth. The ban followed a crackdown on “inappropriate” content by China’s media regulator. Zhang added that Tencent had plagiarized Douyin with its short video app Weishi (微视). Ma responded by saying that that the accusations amounted to defamation.
Bytedance also lost a lawsuit against Tencent in July 2017 over copyright violations. On May 17, Bytedance announced it would take Tencent to court for defamation over an article berating Douyin for occupying children’s minds and publishing content that was inappropriate appeared on a public WeChat account.
Tencent responded by saying that WeChat’s official accounts have a system for filing complaints. The company said that once they are verified, they would be dealt with immediately. The company also said the article in question had already been deleted.
Update June 1, 2018, 18:15: Tencent released a statement saying that it has filed a lawsuit against Bytedance’s Jinri Toutiao and Douyin. It said Jinri Toutiao deliberately modified the headline and source of the article to damage Tencent’s reputation. The company is seeking RMB 1 in damages and a public apology on Bytedance’s media platforms. Tencent also claimed it had suspended its business cooperation with the companies.