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Tencent Bans Uber on WeChat

Discussion in 'Beijing' started by Dreamer, Jul 20, 2015.

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  1. Dreamer

    Dreamer
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    A colorful war of words has broken out in China over the last week between high-flying car services provider Uber and the popular instant messaging service WeChat, providing not only some good entertainment but also valuable lessons for foreign companies doing business on the Chinese Internet. In this instance, WeChat has been blocking keyword searches on Uber, meaning users of the popular mobile messaging service can no longer access Uber’s public account or any articles with the Uber name. WeChat has given its own explanation for the blockage, blaming it on technical issues. Of course it’s probably no coincidence that WeChat’s parent Tencent is also a major backer of rival domestic car services provider Didi Kuaidi.

    Anyone who thought that Beijing censors and bureaucrats were the biggest enemies of foreign companies doing business in China might have to think again, following this latest incident. The reality is that Chinese Internet companies are a fiercely competitive group, and often do business in many of the same areas. They are also far more likely to use their market position to favor their own businesses and undermine competitors, for example by excluding a rival from search its results like WeChat is now doing. The latest online spat broke into the headlines last week, when media reported that WeChat searches using the word “Uber” were coming back empty. The blockage was noticed by WeChat users, who discovered their searches on Uber-related articles and accounts in the public accounts section of the service were producing no results. Such articles and accounts would be an effective way to publicize Uber’s services, which have become quite popular in China these days. WeChat attributed the problem to technical issues, and said it was working to fix it. I did my own quick searches on WeChat today, and the term Uber still failed to produce any results from the public accounts section of the service. Uber made its own statement shortly after the controversy began, saying the blockage was actually old news and had been going on since as early as March, when it first discovered its WeChat public account was being blocked from search results.

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