In fresh regulatory move, China tells tech giants to stop blocking rivals’ links
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BEIJING: China fired a fresh regulatory shot at its tech giants yesterday, telling them to end a long-standing practice of blocking each other’s links on their sites or face consequences.
The comments, made by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) at a news briefing, mark the latest step in Beijing’s broad regulatory crackdown that has ensnared sectors from technology to education and property and wiped billions of dollars off the market value of some of the country’s largest companies.
China’s internet is dominated by a handful of technology giants, which have historically blocked links and services by rivals on their platforms.
Restricting normal access to internet links without proper reason “affects the user experience, damages the rights of users and disrupts market order,” said MIIT spokesperson Zhao Zhiguo, adding that the ministry had received reports and complaints from users since it launched a review of industry practices in July.
“At present we are guiding relevant companies to carry out self-examination and rectification,” he said, citing instant messaging platforms as one of the first areas they were targeting.
He did not specify what the consequences would be for companies that failed to abide with the new guidelines.
The MIIT did not name any companies, but the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper reported on Saturday that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent were among the firms told to end the practice by an unspecified time last week.
Shares in Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings fell yesterday by more than 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively against a 3 percent decline in the Hang Seng Tech Index.
The practice targeted by the MIIT is common.
Tencent said it supported the MIIT’s guidance and would make the necessary changes in phases.