Bytedance barred from using WeChat user information in Douyin, Duoshan

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Tianjin Binhai New Area People’s Court issued a ruling on Wednesday to stop Bytedance from using user information taken from WeChat and QQ on two of its apps, according to media outlet TMT Post (in Chinese).

The temporary ruling prohibits Bytedance from using handles and profile pictures that originate from Tencent’s WeChat and QQ when recommending new friends to users on Douyin, the Chinese version of hit short video app, TikTok. It is also barred from transferring login authorizations that WeChat and QQ users have given to Douyin to apps other than Douyin. Bytedance also cannot use handles and profile pictures in short video app Duoshan that originate on Tencent’s WeChat and QQ.

According to the ruling, the suspension is not final but will last until the final judgment of the case is made at a future date.

The incident started with a push notification from Duoshan on Tuesday, which asked users to make sure that their handles and profile pictures on Duoshan are different from those on WeChat and QQ. According to the notification, this is because “the account information on WeChat/QQ, including profile pictures and handles belongs to Tencent” (our translation). The notice said the the changes should be made “at Tencent’s request.”

Tencent responded to the notification, calling the claims “nonsense,” and accused Douyin of using user information from WeChat and QQ on Duoshan in violation of good faith, business ethics, open platform user protocols, and related regulations. Tencent mentioned in the response that it had started legal action against Douyin and Duoshan.

Bytedance was quick to refute Tencent’s response. Bytedance said in a notice that Douyin acquired user consent when accessing their WeChat handles and profile pictures. It also maintained that Duoshan does the same things if users register the social app with Douyin accounts.

Bytedance has been locked in a fierce rivalry with Tencent for several years, and both companies have been taking measures to gain an upper hand. Tencent, for instance, stopped users from registering accounts on Douyin using WeChat accounts in January and has been blocking Duoshan from WeChat since the launch. Meanwhile, Bytedance has been steadily adding mini-app features similar to those on WeChat to Douyin and its content aggregator, Jinri Toutiao.

The rivalry has also led to a number of lawsuits, with the two companies charging each other with allegations ranging from copyright infringement to unfair competition.