Popular Online Account’s ‘Plagiarism’ Puts Investments in Peril
Negative reviews are coming in for a popular social media account whose Chinese name literally means “negative review.” And now it stands to lose funding from China’s biggest internet company.
Tencent Holdings Ltd. said it may withdraw its investment in Chaping — a news account that has substantial followings on Tencent’s own WeChat as well as microblog site Weibo — after the account was accused of plagiarism.
Chaping, which publishes Chinese-language news focused on tech companies, said Wednesday it had received 30 million yuan ($4.7 million) in its latest fundraising round led by a unit of Tencent Open Platform Interest. Chaping did not reveal details about the unit’s stake.
But the status of the investment moved swiftly into question after the operator of another WeChat account, under the name Sanbiao Longmenzhen, revived accusations of plagiarism against Chaping and questioned Tencent’s integrity in funding the account.
The investment is small for a company like Tencent, which according to Forbes magazine was the 12th most valuable global tech firm last year.
But for Chaping it could be substantial. The account says it has 1.13 million active users on WeChat — a number that could not be verified. Several of its recent posts on the platform have been read over 100,000 times. It has over 400,000 followers on Weibo, often called China’s Twitter.
Chaping has been accused of plagiarism before. A well-known computer programmer, Huo Zhu, published an article in 2015 documenting in detail how an article that took him a year to research and write was republished and widely read on Chaping with only the reshuffling of a few paragraphs and illustrations.
Chaping denied the allegations, and Tencent said its investigation into the matter could not corroborate the complaint.
After the latest online furor, Tencent said it is reviewing the investment in accordance with its intellectual property policy, and could cut links with Chaping pending the review, according to Zhang Jun, Tencent’s public relations director.
Zhang said Tencent will show no mercy towards companies on WeChat found to have breached the law, even if Tencent has a stake in these firms.
But Zhang also played down the incident, saying the investment was made by one of its subsidiaries, so it is not necessarily a reflection of Tencent’s stance.
Contact reporter Li Rongde (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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