Toutiao continues public argument, accuses Tencent of “stigmatization”

Bytedance’s news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao has said Tencent abused its market position to ban and stigmatize Toutiao’s products on its platforms, NetEase Tech is reporting.

The company released a statement after tensions boiled over between the two firms last week. The company alleges that starting from March 2018 Tencent blocked content from Toutiao and Bytedance-owned short video platform Douyin on WeChat and QQ. It said this was done under the guise of supervision, security, and software bugs, among others. It also said Tencent sought to “stigmatize” its content.

Toutiao also said that Tencent-owned WeChat and QQ are the most prominent social platforms in China and the company should not seek to use its dominance to abuse competition in the market.

The remarks are the latest in a long-standing spat between the two companies. On June 1, Tencent announced it had filed a RMB 1 lawsuit against Bytedance Technology and an affiliated company in a Beijing court. The company is seeking compensation, mostly in the form of a public apology, for allegedly having their reputation damaged and for unfair competition. Tencent said numerous disparaging articles, videos, and statements had been circulated on Toutiao and  Douyin targetting it and its executives.

Earlier that day, Tencent’s public relations director Zhang Jun accused Toutiao of misleading the public by wrongfully attributing and republishing an article that was critical of the company.

On June 2, Bytedance said it had filed a lawsuit against Tencent to the tune of RMB 90 million. The company is also seeking a public apology and an end to anti-competitive practices.

This is not the first time the two companies have taken legal action against one another. In July 2017, Bytedance lost a case against Tencent for copyright violations. Douyin later said it would take Tencent to court for defamation.

Prior to the legal action over the weekend, Tencent’s Pony Ma and Bytedance’s Zhang Yiming exchanged words publically on WeChat Moments. Zhang claimed that despite Tencent’s copyright infringements and blocking of  Douyin’s video, the company’s growth would continue. Ma struck back saying Zhang’s comments amounted to defamation.