(Yicai Global) Feb. 6 -- The dispute between China's tech heavyweight Baidu Inc. [NASDAQ:BIDU] and Beijing Bytedance Technology Co., operator of news aggregator site Toutiao.com, got another twist with further accusations against one another yesterday. The two internet firms have locked in a dispute upon claims of defamation raised by a Weibo user Baidu accused of siding with Toutiao and sued.
Baidu recently filed a lawsuit with Haidian District People's Court of Beijing Municipality to prosecute Luo Changping, a former investigative journalist, on the grounds that the latter has infringed upon its reputation, demanding that Luo immediately delete the relevant infringing information, make a public apology and compensate a total loss of CNY5 million (USD795,000), reported online portal Sina.com yesterday.
The dispute dates back to Jan. 23 when an account under the name of Luo Changping on China's microblogging platform Weibo, owned by Sina Corp., claimed that Baidu has set up a content ecology marketing department and a unit to "fight" Toutiao and to "crack down on it through public relations." Alongside the claim, Luo also posted a screenshot of a chat that allegedly took place on the messaging app WeChat detailing the responsibilities and nature of the Baidu unit against Toutiao. The post went viral raising concerns among many netizens.
Subsequently, Toutiao accused Baidu of "conducting gangster-like public relations" and took it to the court on the grounds of unfair competition.
Baidu denied the existence of such a unit and clarified that the so-called content ecology marketing department is actually responsible for marketing Baidu app rather than cracking down on any party. It published two long articles through the official WeChat account of Baidu public relations to criticize Toutiao.
Luo fabricating existence of a Baidu office to counter Toutiao and spreading such information on social media with unverified WeChat chat as a basis have caused serious damage to Baidu's goodwill and social image, Baidu claimed, filing a lawsuit against him.
However, Baidu is pointing to Toutiao although the subject of its lawsuit is Luo, an individual. Luo Changping is the investor and sponsor of media platform Lanmeih.com, and the core accounts of this media platform, namely AI lanmeih, lanmeih and jizhezhan have all disseminated Luo's claims.
Baidu accused Lanmeih.com of favoring Toutiao and hinted that there might be cooperation between the two. The Haidian District People's Court has accepted the case and will review it at a later date.