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China Digital Digest Weekly: Exploring the Chinese Digital Landscape

Hi folks, we are back with our weekly edition of China’s Digital Digest, wherein we bring you weekly updates on China’s digital space. The report takes a quick glance at China’s complex and rapidly evolving social media landscape by providing updates on the latest happenings across the social media industry. Here are the major highlights of the report.

1. Opponents of Texas Ban on TikTok Urge US Federal Court to Halt Directive

First Amendment lawyers and digital security experts urged a US federal court to stop Texas from enforcing a ban on TikTok this week, arguing the prohibition was already having “far-reaching effects” on research and teaching at public universities without protecting citizen data from China.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a directive to ban the Chinese-owned app on state-issued devices and networks in December, and a law codifying aspects of the ban was passed in June. The Texas suit is part of a mounting legal resistance to bans targeting the app, which top US intelligence officials say poses a national security threat due to its Chinese ownership.

2. China Suspected of Using AI On Social Media to Sway US Voters, Microsoft Says

Microsoft researchers said they found what they believe is a network of fake, Chinese-controlled social media accounts seeking to influence US voters by using artificial intelligence.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement that accusations of China using AI to create fake social media accounts were “full of prejudice and malicious speculation” and that China advocates for the safe use of AI. In a new research report, Microsoft said the social media accounts were part of a suspected Chinese information operation. The campaign bore similarities to the activity that the US Department of Justice has attributed to “an elite group within [China’s] Ministry of Public Security”, Microsoft said.

3. Tencent Launches Hunyuan Foundation AI Model for Enterprises

Chinese video gaming and social media giant Tencent Holdings has launched its foundation artificial intelligence (AI) model called Hunyuan, as the country’s most valuable company bets on its vast ecosystem to help drive the adoption of more ChatGPT-like services across the mainland.

Hunyuan, a large language model (LLM) that has more than 100 billion parameters and been pre-trained with over 2 trillion tokens, is now available for enterprises in China to test and build apps via the company’s cloud-computing arm Tencent Cloud, according to an announcement by Tencent vice-president Jiang Jie at the main forum of the company’s 2023 Global Digital Ecosystem Summit in Shenzhen.

4. China’s Weibo Banishes 80 Prominent Crypto Influencers

The accounts of 80 popular cryptocurrency influencers, each with more than 8 million followers, have been removed from one of China’s most popular social media apps, as Beijing maintains its tight grip over crypto activities.

The Weibo accounts, which promoted cryptocurrencies, had breached eight regulations in China covering areas such as marketing, internet safety, telecommunications, trade and finance, Weibo Finance said in a statement. The Beijing-based firm said it would continue to “receive complaints from users” and initiate investigations on “illegal virtual currency trading information” in accordance with local laws.

5. TikTok is Moving European User Data to a New Data Centre In Ireland

TikTok has confirmed that its first European data centre in Ireland is now operational and the social media giant has begun to migrate European user data to the site, as part of its ongoing response to data privacy concerns around the app’s links to China.

The centre in Dublin is the first of three in Europe to be built and will house data from TikTok users from across the European Economic Area (EEA), the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The social media giant’s construction of the centres comes as it faces ongoing scrutiny from regulators around the world over its links to China.

6. Former Alibaba CEO Steps Down From Cloud Unit In Surprise Exit, Blow to Stock

Former Alibaba Group Holding chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang Yong has stepped down as head of the e-commerce giant’s cloud division, a move that came as a surprise on the same day he was scheduled to hand the reins of the parent company to co-founder Joe Tsai.

Alibaba’s new CEO Eddie Wu Yongming has taken over from Zhang as acting chairman and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group. The leadership change may also increase coordination between the cloud unit and the group’s other operations, which is critical for key products such as Tongyi Qianwen, the large language model launched in April, said Chen Duan, director of the Digital Economy Integration Innovation Development Center at the Central University of Finance and Economics.

7. New Alibaba CEO Sharpens Focus on AI As He Takes Over The Reins

Alibaba Group Holding will sharpen its strategic focus on two main themes, “users first” and “artificial intelligence-driven”, as the Chinese tech giant grapples with growing competition and a shifting internet landscape, according to new group CEO Eddie Wu Yongming.

“As traditional internet models become increasingly homogeneous and face the competitive pressures of saturation, new technologies such as AI are emerging as the new engine of global business growth,” Wu wrote in an internal letter sent to employees. As part of its business transformation, Alibaba intends to strengthen strategic investments in three areas: technology-driven internet platforms, AI-driven tech businesses, and global commerce networks, Wu said.

8. Taobao AI Model ‘Taobao Wenwen’ Is in Internal Testing

The Taobao AI large-scale model ‘Taobao Wenwen’ is currently undergoing internal testing. You can apply for the internal test by searching ‘Taobao Wenwen’ on Taobao, or participate in the testing through an invitation code. Taobao Wenwen is an innovative attempt by Taobao to iterate on the original search function and guide users in their e-commerce searches. Its aim is to combine user input with deep synthesis algorithms to provide users with products and content that better align with their consumption habits.

Wrapping Up

The vast and diverse nature of the Chinese Social Media space makes it incredibly challenging to keep a tab on the rapid developments taking place. However, China’s Digital Digest brings you all the latest updates from there to keep you abreast of all the evolving trends.

To delve deeper into the findings of the September report, click here.


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