(Yicai Global) June 5 -- Bytedance Technology, which runs China's largest news aggregator Toutiao, has attacked tech rival Tencent Holdings in an online post as the pair battle out their gripes in court.
Tencent has been flagging content published on Toutiao and Bytedance's short video platform Douyin as unsafe or blocking it completely on social apps under the guise of supervision and security, the Beijing-based firm claimed in a statement yesterday. Tencent runs China's two biggest social platforms, WeChat and QQ, which boast almost two billion monthly active users but with considerable crossover.
The tirade comes after Shenzhen-based Tencent filed a CNY1 (USD0.16) lawsuit against Bytedance on June 1, demanding compensation primarily in the form of a public apology after Toutiao allegedly tweaked the headline of a state media report to reflect badly on the plaintiff. The defendants include Bytedance and its unit Beijing Microlive Vision Technology, which directly operates Douyin. Tencent announced the same day that it would suspend cooperation with the two companies.
On June 2, Bytedance said it had counter-sued Tencent, asking it to end anti-competitive practices and seeking CNY90 million (USD14 million) in damages, as well as a public apology posted online for 100 days. The People's Court of Haidian District in Beijing has accepted both cases.
Bytedance, despite operating the first quarter's most downloaded iPhone app worldwide, has repeatedly flustered against stronger competitors as it looks to make its mark in the online content sector. Earlier this year it filed a suit against China's biggest search provider Baidu for the reasons bemoaned in its statement yesterday. The firm also lost a case against Tencent over copyright violations last July, later saying it would take the internet giant back to court for defamation.
Tencent and Bytedance's chief executives, Pony Ma and Zhang Yiming, exchanged words on WeChat early last month. Zhang was boasting about Douyin's first quarter success on Apple's App Store, claiming it bested competition despite WeChat plagiarizing its content and blocking its content. Ma responded in a comment: "[This] can be understood as libel."
Tencent right now seems more focused on the bigger fish. It was unfazed by a CNY1-million (USD157,000) defamation lawsuit last month and is plowing ahead with New Retail investments as it looks to challenge e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group Holding. It partnered the world's biggest private property developer Dalian Wanda Group last week in a deal that will turn Wanda's malls, which attracted more than three billion visits last year, into smart shopping hubs.
Editor: James Boynton