Plagiarism and blocking allegations flare up between China’s two biggest companies

Updated 2018-05-10 10:39:03

Picture from Beijing News

A screenshot of a conversation between Pony Ma, also known as Huateng Ma in Chinese, the CEO of Tencent, one of the biggest companies in both China and the world, and Yiming Zhang, the founder of the company Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, which owns the most-downloaded app on China's Facebook like social media platform, WeChat, have brought their companies into the spotlight again, according to Beijing News.

One day after being the most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2018 in the world, Zhang posted a screenshot from the App Store on his WeChat Moments, writing "Celebrate small success".

Soon after posting the screenshot, Zhang continued to comment under his own post by saying "the imitation of Weishi (a Tik Tok similar video platform backed by Tencent) as well as the ban from WeChat, cannot stop the progress of our company".

The popularity of Tik Tok has skyrocketed within the last year, with an estimated 45.5 million downloads, putting it ahead of YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook's messenger app and Instagram.

The parent company of Tik Tok, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, one of China's fastest-growing Internet startups - which was asked to shut and delete its WeChat social media account - is also the developer behind news aggregator Toutiao, a platform that mines data and uses AI technology to deliver tailored content to its 120 million domestic users who, according to Qianfan Analysis, use the app for over 80 minutes per day on average.

"Your words can be regarded as a kind of slander," Ma responded after seeing Zhang's comments. "The former (blocking) is not suitable for discussion and the latter (plagiarism) is being proven. I do not intend to start a verbal dispute."

"I just was criticized by the PR colleague of our company because of what I said (on my WeChat Moments)," replied Zhang, "But I will send you the information."

"We have too much against [Bytedance] that has been proven," Ma responded without any elaboration.

Toutiao and Tik Tok have been successful in competing against Kuaishou and Weishi, rival companies that are financially backed by Tencent.

Toutiao is one of the world's largest media startup, with a valuation of over 20 billion US dollars and hundreds of millions of users. The company has been blocked from sharing links of its popular live-streaming services, including Douyin, on Tencent's two top social networking platforms, WeChat and QQ, in April. Since March 2018, If users shared content from Toutiao to their WeChat Moments, the post can only be seen by themselves.

Tencent confirmed the WeChat Moments spats between Ma and Zhang.

"Any rational discussion, communication, criticism and instruction is welcome but irresponsible slander is unacceptable," said a Tencent spokesman, according to the South China Morning Post.

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