Chinese social media group and investor Tencent has filed lawsuits against three bloggers who posted critical information about the company on the WeChat platform. If the Chinese court decides in favor of Tencent, the three bloggers will find themselves in deep financial trouble as the lawsuit demands payment of a huge amount of money for “damage” to the company’s reputation.
One of the bloggers facing lawsuit is Jianfei Yan who wrote sometime in March about the dominance of the “super-powerful” WeChat platform and how it has the potential to become a breathing ground for data breaches.
Tencent slapped the blogger with an Rmb1M or roughly US$140,000 defamation lawsuit. Mr. Yan is wondering why Tencent did not just asked him to just retract his article on WeChat but instead filed the lawsuit against him.
“If Tencent questioned my comments, they could [have stopped] me publishing them on WeChat . . . but they just directly appealed to the court and sued me,” said Jianfei Yan.
Although Tencent did not issue a direct reply to Jianfei Yan, the answer to his question was indirectly given when Tencent issued a statement saying that the reason why the company reasoned against deleting the offensive articles is that it would further cause damage to the company’s reputation. The statement was issued after another blogger, Jihua Ma was sued by Tencent.
According to FT, the third blogger who was sued by Tencent was Xuyang Sun who pointed out that the company’s efforts to reduce children’s time spent gaming could be avoided. The blogger argued that his statement was milder than similar offensive attacks against the company by the government-owned People’s Daily newspaper.
Although these lawsuits will not merit jail sentences being civil cases in nature, they will have an impact on the defendants financial conditions especially if the court favors against them.
Surprisingly, the amount that the defendants have to pay Tencent if the court decides in favor of the company is more than the amount of penalty usually meted on cases of reputation damage. The amount usually does not go more than Rmb10,000.
Two of the cases are awaiting resolution at the Internet Court of Guangzhou while the other one was filed at Shenzhen Nanshan District Court. One of the bloggers, Jihua Ma is trying to reach an amicable settlement with Tencent as of this writing.
Tencent own stakes US companies Reddit and Snapchat.