According to TechCrunch, the world’s most valuable startup is not Uber anymore – It’s now ByteDance, a Chinese social media giant. Valued at $75 billion, ByteDance is worth about $3 billion more than Uber.
Despite being the most valuable startup in the world, ByteDance still has struggles with the Chinese government’s accusations of fake news and offensive content both its main platforms, Toutiao and TikTok / Douyin, formerly known as Musical.ly.
According to TechNode, Toutiao has been pioneering a usage of various AI, or artificial intelligence, based methods to fight fakes news. According to the head of Toutiao’s AI lab, Dr. Ma Wei-Ying, Toutiao can fight fake news more effectively by analyzing fake news with machine learning algorithms.
China has several internet restrictions including blocked websites such as Facebook and Google and over two million content moderators, according to CNN.
According to China Media Project, this is a response to a previous fake news incident involving a fake Toutiao website, which resulted in Zhang Yiming, CEO of BytdeDance, issuing a national apology on WeChat and on China Media Project.
According to Financial Times, ByteDance is seen as one of the companies trying to navigate the Great Firewall of China by trying not to upset the government. The Great Firewall of China is the set of technology and policies the Chinese use to control their internet.
For instance, westerners have access to Tik Tok, a social media app for recording videos of oneself performing actions similar to Vine. Chinese social media consumers only have access to Douyin, which is the same app but for China because Chinese citizens are blocked from downloading Tik Tok.
That being said, Tik Tok and Douyin have suffered from controversy. According to Reuters, the platforms were briefly banned in Indonesia due to allegedly blasphemous content. Also a trend in American media outlets, such as BuzzFeed or The Outline, is to report the fact many people dislike users of Tik Tok. This is due to the perception in media coverage that Tik Tok is either a unsatisfactory replacement of Vine, or that users of the app are strange, according to The Verge.
Talyor Lorenz’s coverage of Tik Tok on The Atlantic and on Twitter shows that many outlets and people declare TikTok as “cringy,” people are trying to use this app for fun. This might be the reason Tik Tok According to Business Insider, Tik Tok had more downloads in September than Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat did during that time, specifically 3.81 million in total.
Outside of ByteDance’s various missteps regarding it’s platforms, the past few weeks have been filled with similar controversies regarding behavior on Chinese social media.
According to Reuters, Chinese blogger Yang Kaili was detained due to supposedly mocking the national anthem during a live stream.
This is not the only person who has suffered consequences due to perceived disrespect of the Chinese national anthem.
The Jakarta Post wrote on November that one of Shandong Luneng’s soccer players, Diego Tadelli, suffered a one-game ban due to rubbing his face before the Chinese national anthem played.
This was five days after Yang Kalli was arrested and over a year since the law was modified to provide harsher sentencing.
According to Xinhuanet, on October 1, 2017, a National Anthem Law was implemented to enforce “proper behavior” during various events like political gatherings and sports games. The most impactful part of the law was that it made using the national anthem during “inappropriate events” illegal with a punishment of up to 15 days of detainment.
The New York Times noted that in November, the law got updated to make the punishment become up to three years of imprisonment.
While both Yang and Diego did not suffer a three-year sentence, they ended up having to recant their actions in on Social Media via a national apology on Wiebo.