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2018-02-23 14:56:40

As mobile quiz apps remain wildly popular in China, so do services that help contestants cheat.

On Thursday, the feud between “Millionaire Hero” and Sogou — a popular livestreaming quiz app and a custom keyboard that users can install on their phones, respectively — came to the public’s attention after a Beijing court accepted a lawsuit on behalf of the former’s parent company. That company, Jinri Toutiao, and one of its affiliates sued Sogou for feeding answers to users and helping them win dishonestly, according to a notice posted by the Haidian District People’s Court. The notice was later deleted on the court’s website but is still available on its official microblog.

“Millionaire Hero” is one of many mobile apps that allow contestants to compete for millions of yuan. The game is facilitated live by a host, while multiple questions on topics ranging from history and geography to current affairs and economics pop up on the player’s phone. However, Sogou's keyboard is accused of providing users with a feature that automatically displays the correct answer at the bottom of the screen, as seen in screenshots published by Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper.

“[We] ask the court to rule that Sogou must immediately stop its unfair competition behavior and apologize,” Jinri Toutiao was quoted as saying in the court document. The company also demanded 5.5 million yuan ($870,000) in compensation from Sogou.

However, when Sixth Tone called Sogou on Friday, the company — whose portfolio includes a web browser, a search engine, and other resources — said it had settled the case out of court before the Spring Festival holiday. According to legal documents Sogou sent Sixth Tone, Jinri Toutiao had agreed to withdraw the suit on Feb. 6 but didn’t disclose any settlement details. A public relations officer for Sogou who would not give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject said the court posted the case details online due to miscommunication between various departments. Sixth Tone was unable to verify the legal documents with the Haidian District People’s Court, while Jinri Toutiao’s spokesperson declined to comment.

In recent months, quiz apps have become a popular way for mobile users to test their brainpower and brag on social media by sharing scores. Games like “Millionaire Hero” have attracted millions of players by offering eye-popping prizes: Answering all 12 questions correctly within the 10-second time limit comes with a cash award of 3 million yuan.

While trivia apps have become increasingly popular both in China and the world over, they have also attracted their fair share of criticism. “Millionaire Hero” came under scrutiny in January, just weeks after its release, when The Beijing News reported that it was rife with cheating tools, including answer databases. Experts, meanwhile, have raised concerns about players developing addictions to such games.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A mobile user accesses the trivia game ‘Millionaire Hero’ in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Dec. 24, 2017. Yi Zhou/VCG)