Bytedance responds to Baidu’s accusations of manipulating search results

Bytedance hit back on Monday against a lawsuit brought against it by Baidu. Earlier this month, Baidu sued the content company over allegations of results in its in-house search engine.

Why it matters: Bytedance is moving aggressively to build its search engine, a potential rival to search giant Baidu. The company could easily threaten Baidu’s monopoly in China’s search market with its 1.5 billion monthly active users.

  • The lawsuit joins a series of legal actions taken by Baidu against the upstart in efforts to keep its search ambitions in check. Bytedance has also responded with more lawsuits.

Details: In the lawsuit, Baidu claimes that Bytedance deliberately directs users away from Baidu products that are similar to Bytedance offerings. Bytedance’s search arm, Toutiao Search, responded in a statement, saying that the company is working to better protect brands on its platform.

  • Both companies are headquartered in Beijing. The suit was filed in the capital’s Haidian District.
  • According to a notice (in Chinese) published on the Haidian court’s website, Baidu accused Toutiao search of ranking Bytedance’s own products above Baidu’s, even if users specifically search for a Baidu product.
  • Baidu said in lawsuit filings that Bytedance “used inappropriate means to attain competitive advantage” and sought compensation and legal expenses in a total of RMB 1 (around $143,100).
  • “Whether a brand purchases Toutiao Search’s advertising service or not, it will be protected by the principle [of brand protection],” (our translation) said the Bytedance statement.
  • Bytedance launched Toutiao Search in August. The product used to be an in-app search function for its popular Jinri Toutiao newsfeed app.
  • The search engine offers results from the company’s popular apps such as Jinri Toutiao, short video apps Douyin and Xigua, as well as general content from around the internet.
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Context: Both tech giants have been increasingly litigious against each other this year.

  • Baidu previously filed a lawsuit in Beijing on April 26, alleging that Bytedance stole a number of its search results and displayed them in the new search engine function.
  • In January, Baidu sued Bytedance, along with professional networking platform Maimai, for RMB 5 million over allegations of defamation and copyright infringement. Two months later, Bytedance vice president Li Liang won a defamation suit against Baidu, after claiming the company posted slanderous material about him on its website and app.

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