A Beijing court on Tuesday accepted a lawsuit accusing Tencent of monopolistic behavior, after the plaintiff found he was unable to directly share links from certain platforms on the Chinese tech giant’s messaging app, WeChat.
Zhang Zhengxin, a lawyer and the plaintiff in the case, said the affected content was from e-commerce platform Taobao and short-video app TikTok, owned by Alibaba and ByteDance respectively, according to an indictment Zhang filed with the Beijing Intellectual Property Court and posted on his Weibo microblog. In an interview Wednesday with the newspaper Jiancha Daily, the lawyer explained how it was unnecessarily complicated to share Taobao and TikTok content on WeChat: For Taobao pages, users must copy and paste the URLs into WeChat; for TikTok, videos must be saved to the user’s phone before they can be uploaded and posted in WeChat.
In the indictment, Zhang demands 20,500 yuan ($3,000) in compensation and a public apology from Tencent. He also asks the company to stop restricting links from its competitors.
“I filed a civil complaint hoping that Tencent would recognize its mistake and make amends,” Zhang told Sixth Tone on Thursday. “Many users have complained about this previously, but they may not have been aware that their rights were being violated.”
Tencent declined to comment when contacted by Sixth Tone on Thursday. Neither TikTok nor Taobao had responded to Sixth Tone’s interview requests by time of publication.
Tencent has been involved in a string of lawsuits in recent years, with many initiated by ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. The bad blood between the two rivals can be traced back to May of last year, when ByteDance’s CEO alleged that Tencent was blocking TikTok videos from being shared on WeChat in order to promote its own short-video app, Weishi. In the weeks that followed, the two companies sued each other for defamation and complained of smear campaigns.
Zhang told Sixth Tone that while Taobao links and TikTok videos cannot easily be shared in WeChat messages or on users’ social feeds, Tencent seems less inclined to discriminate against content from similar platforms like JD.com and Weishi. In the Jiancha Daily interview, he claimed that, by blocking e-commerce and entertainment content, Tencent is in violation of China’s anti-monopoly law.
The Beijing Intellectual Property Court has not announced when the impending trial will take place.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: IC)