ByteDance sues arch-rival Tencent over WeChat ‘monopoly’

ByteDance is suing Tencent Holdings over alleged monopolies in its WeChat and QQ platforms, escalating a feud between the leading Chinese social media giants.

The TikTok owner filed a lawsuit in Beijing on Tuesday, claiming that Tencent had allegedly violated Chinese antitrust laws by blocking access to content from Douyin, the Chinese twin of its globally popular short video app, on WeChat and QQ. It’s asking the court to order Tencent to cease its actions and pay the equivalent of R210-million in compensation.

The lawsuit comes months after Beijing unveiled draft regulations aimed at rooting out monopolistic behaviour among Internet companies that sparked a sell-off in the tech sector. The two tech giants are fierce rivals, and their billionaire founders — Zhang Yiming at ByteDance and Tencent’s Pony Ma — have previously traded barbs. As recently as this January, ByteDance senior executives publicly accused the larger company of blocking its offerings including Douyin and work app Feishu on WeChat.

”We believe that competition is better for consumers and promotes innovation,” a ByteDance spokesman said. “We have filed this lawsuit to protect our rights and those of our users.”

Tencent representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives for the court didn’t respond to calls and messages seeking comment.

WeChat, which has over a billion users, has long established a so-called walled garden that controls what content and services its users can interact with. ByteDance has previously filed lawsuits against Tencent for blocking its content, but TikTok’s owner says that’s the first time they are doing so using anti-monopoly grounds.

ByteDance has been eating away at Tencent’s lead in areas like social media and gaming in recent years. WeChat, for its part, has launched a direct assault into Douyin’s turf by introducing a short-video feed within the super-app. Its Channels feature had garnered more than 200 million daily active users in less than six months since launching, and the app’s founder Allen Zhang said in a January event that videos will be the king of social media for the next decade.  — Reported by Zheping Huang, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP

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