(Bloomberg) – China’s top technology regulator on Monday warned internet companies against blocking links to rival services, reaffirming Beijing’s request from online giants Tencent Holdings Ltd. to ByteDance Ltd. to dismantle walls around it. of their platforms.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has convened executives from the country’s online platforms to emphasize the need to stop shutting down others’ services, ministry spokesman Zhao Zhiguo told reporters in Beijing. Businesses don’t realize it’s a problem for users, he said without naming specific companies.
Regulators have ordered the country’s tech companies to put a price on the opening of their so-called walled gardens or closed ecosystems, as part of a campaign to curb their growing power. The government has accused a handful of companies of employing locks and other methods to protect their respective spheres: Tencent on social media via WeChat, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. on e-commerce with Taobao and Tmall, and most recently ByteDance on video via TikTok’s cousin Douyin.
All three block links from their services to rivals’ content. However, it is unclear what action regulators want big tech companies to take and by when. Executives at Alibaba and Tencent have said they will comply, publicly advocating for a more open Chinese internet. Earlier this year, Alibaba was aiming to set up a lite Taobao Deals app on WeChat and had already invited merchants to participate, Bloomberg News reported. But Tencent executives said during the company’s latest quarterly earnings call that it prioritizes user experience and that any openings should be measured.
“Restricting access to web links without justification seriously affects the user experience, damages users’ rights and disrupts the order of the market,” Zhao told a news conference. “We have asked companies to practically correct their actions, including blocking links on instant messaging platforms, and to solve these problems step by step.”
Tencent has previously been accused of banning rival services on its platforms. ByteDance sued Tencent in February, claiming its rival had violated antitrust laws by blocking access to Douyin’s content on WeChat and QQ. The Shenzhen-based company has called the allegations unfounded and malicious.
Read more: Alibaba will open the Deals application in concession to the antitrust campaign
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com
Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.
© 2021 Bloomberg LP