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The PRC plans to open up social media content for research

UNPRECEDENTED PROPOSAL:
The process would be tantamount to US regulators forcing Facebook Inc to open public posts on WhatsApp to Google searches

China is considering asking media companies from Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊) to ByteDance Ltd (字節 跳動) to allow their competitors to access and display their content in search results, a move that could further eradicate online barriers and disrupt the internet advertising arena.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Debates Rules to Make Hundreds of Millions of Articles on Tencent’s Messaging App WeChat (微 信) Available Through Search Engines Like Baidu Inc (百度), said people familiar with the matter.

He also plans to include short videos of Douyin (抖 音) from ByteDance (抖 音) – TikTok’s Chinese cousin – in searches, one of the people said.

Regulators are asking companies for comments and it is not clear whether they will move forward, they said.

If implemented, this policy would mark a significant step forward in Beijing’s campaign to break down barriers between Chinese internet giants, in particular Tencent and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (阿里巴巴).

The watchdog has already warned tech companies to open their so-called ‘walled gardens’ by allowing links to competing services, as part of a wider campaign to eliminate illegal activity in the larger arena Internet of the world.

Forcing ByteDance or Tencent to allow Baidu and other competitors to display their social media content in internet searches would be unprecedented.

This could divert advertising revenue from services such as WeChat or Douyin to search engines such as Baidu. The process would be tantamount to US regulators forcing Facebook Inc to open public posts on WhatsApp to Google searches, for example, if the US messaging service supports public accounts.

A spokesperson for Tencent declined to comment, while representatives for ByteDance and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

The ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

There can be no assurance that the ministry will enforce the envisaged regulations, as its coverage area overlaps with other powerful agencies such as the Cyberspace Administration of China and the State Administration of Market Regulation, which have extracted billion in fines from Alibaba and Meituan (美 團) for market abuse.

All are under pressure to respond to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) call to clean up the internet, get the biggest players to share the wealth and help shape a generation of productive young people by fighting online addiction.

Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xiao Yaqing (肖亞慶) told People’s Daily in an interview that his ministry would strengthen supervision of the Internet industry as it continues a six-month clean-up campaign. month.

The ministry has been the main driver of the broader effort to eliminate online monopolies around content, while China’s Cyberspace Administration has focused on security and privacy concerns.

The ministry’s deliberations focus on WeChat’s public accounts, which allow individuals and businesses to post on everything from movies to football to foreign policy. This massive content library is now blocked by search engines operated by Baidu and ByteDance.

Articles on WeChat now only appear on the app’s native search function or on the smaller Sogou engine (搜 狗), controlled by Tencent.

To compete, Baidu launched its own publisher platform Baijiahao (百家 號) in 2016, populating content so that its core search service is still relevant in the mobile age.

Tencent is not alone in restricting search services. In 2008, Alibaba’s Taobao (淘 寶) online mall blocked searches of Baidu in an attempt, it said, to protect consumers.

This has helped Alibaba dominate online marketing as merchants cut ad spend with Baidu to focus on online shopping.

It is not known whether the ministry also intends to unblock Taobao’s listings or other content, the people said.

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