According to Nikkei Asia, Alibaba is best known for its online shopping platforms Taobao and Tmall. The Hangzhou-based company has also assembled a media empire. It includes newspapers, digital and broadcast media, a social-networking platform, video-streaming site, film production company and advertising agencies.
"For Alibaba, these media platforms are effective tools to help funnel users towards its other businesses at a time when big tech companies are competing to build sprawling ecosystems, from ecommerce to entertainment. But their growing influence over content creation and distribution, a process closely monitored by Beijing, is increasingly unsettling the authorities."
Alibaba owns Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, video-streaming platform Youku and a 30 per cent share of Twitter-like social media site Weibo. Along with its affiliates, Alibaba has invested in Bilibili, known as China's version of video platform YouTube, newsgroup Yicai Media Group, digital news sites 36Kr and Huxiu.com, as well as Focus Media, China's largest offline advertising company.
"It's fair to say that Alibaba's control over information, media and personal data in China has far exceeded [that of] tech giants in other countries," Nikkei Asia quoted Zhu Ning, professor of finance and deputy dean at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, as saying.
Last December, business news site Huxiu, backed by Ant, took aim at Beijing's anti-monopoly regulations in an editorial, warning that a crackdown could stifle the growth of internet companies and damage the competitiveness of China's economy. The article, with an apparent pro-Alibaba tone, was published after the market regulator launched an investigation into Alibaba, which led to a record fine of 18 billion yuan (USD 2.8 billion) four months later.
The article, however, was deleted from Huxiu's website shortly afterwards, and the site stopped uploading new content for a month, telling users it would "enter maintenance mode", reported Nikkei Asia.
Recently, China also lectured the country's largest tech firms including Tencent Holding, Meituan, and ByteDance, to fear and respect the rules of the industry.
China's top tech companies were recently called for a meeting with the antitrust watchdog, cyberspace administration, and the tax authority, with the aim to ensure that every major internet firm in the country got the message from the fine slapped on Alibaba Group Holding, The South China Morning Post reported.
The Hong-Kong-based newspaper said that the Big Tech firms have been asked to fear and respect the rules of the industry.