How does the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology "break the barriers" to remove the network barriers?
It is imperative for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to rectify and block external links to break the "barriers" among Internet giants
"Finally, Douyin can share directly to WeChat." "You don't need to send a password to share Taobao."
Since September 9, a screenshot of the "Administrative Guidance Meeting for Blocking Websites" held by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (hereinafter referred to as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) Information and Communication Administration (hereinafter referred to as the Information Management Bureau) in the afternoon of the same day has been circulated in the industry. The Information Management Bureau of China Display requires the Internet to be unblocked in accordance with three standards, otherwise three corresponding law enforcement measures will be taken.
One stone stirred up a thousand waves.
Many netizens said that by removing the blocking between platforms, they no longer have to send various passwords to share links.
Breaking down the "barriers" among Internet giants has also become the focus of attention from all walks of life.
On September 13, Zhao Zhiguo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Director of the Information Management Bureau, responded at a regular press conference of the Information Office of the State Council that blocking URL links is one of the key rectification issues in the special rectification action for the Internet industry launched in July.
Currently, it is guiding relevant Internet companies to carry out self-examination and rectification in accordance with the plan of the special action.
From Zhao Zhiguo's speech, we can see two requirements: "Interconnection" has become an inevitable choice for the high-quality development of the Internet industry, and ensuring users' "unblocked and safe" use is the direction of "interconnection".
Zhao Zhiguo also mentioned the challenges encountered in the special action. “During the self-examination and rectification, we learned that there is still a certain gap between the understanding of blocking URL links and the requirements of the special action by some Internet companies.” He asked the companies to follow the rectification requirements. , Pragmatically promote the resolution of different types of problems such as blocking URL links in steps and phases.
Subsequently, Tencent, Alibaba, Bytedance, and Baidu all expressed support and support for the above policy.
But each also highlights different positions. For example, Tencent emphasizes "step-by-step and phased implementation", ByteDance calls on other platforms to "do not make excuses, clarify timetables, and actively implement them", and Baidu said that it has always "persisted in peace Call for open source development and interconnection."
At the beginning of the establishment of the Internet, enterprises all laid out in line with the essentials of interconnection.
However, as business tentacles continue to expand, giant companies have built crisscrossed ecosystems and built their own "secret gardens" in multiple vertical fields, and the Internet ecology at home and abroad has begun to show a centralized trend.
The global regulatory field is paying attention to this topic. Whether my country breaks the "secret garden" of giants is particularly worthy of attention.
The Beijing News Shell Finance reporter interviewed Deng Zhisong, the co-leader and senior partner of Dacheng Law Firm's competition and antitrust business in China, Pan Helin, executive dean and professor of the Institute of Digital Economy, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, and research director of "Comparative" magazine Chen Yongwei, as well as a number of middle-level and senior Internet companies who did not want to be named, interpret the implementation rules for my country's "interconnection"?
What are the impacts on enterprises in the horizontal and vertical industrial chains?
And learn to absorb foreign cases that can be used for reference.
1 "Shielding" has long been breaking the "secret garden" and affecting geometry?
"Restricting the identification, analysis, and normal access of URL links without proper reasons affects user experience, damages user rights, and disrupts market order. Users react strongly to this aspect, and we have received more reports and complaints." Zhao Zhiguo, director of the Information Management Bureau of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, described the reasons for promoting "interconnection".
With the continuous expansion of business tentacles, companies have built crisscrossed ecosystems and built their own "secret gardens" in multiple vertical fields, blocking each other from time to time.
The first thing that attracted widespread attention was the "3Q War".
On September 27, 2010, 360 released its newly developed "Privacy Protector", which specifically collects whether QQ software violates user privacy.
Subsequently, QQ immediately pointed out that the 360 browser was suspected of using pornographic websites to promote it.
On November 3, 2010, Tencent announced that it would stop running the QQ software on computers with 360 software. Users must uninstall the 360 software to log in to QQ, forcing users to "choose one."
For their own interests, from 2010 to 2014, the two companies staged a series of Internet battles and embarked on the path of litigation.
In mid-2019, an open letter from the home appliance company Galanz revealed the secret of "choosing one out of two" in the e-commerce field.
It stated in the open letter that since Galanz visited Pinduoduo on May 28 of that year, Galanz's search end on the Tmall platform has experienced abnormalities one after another, which has severely affected normal sales.
After discovering the abnormality, Galanz communicated with Tmall through various methods, but the abnormal problem has not yet been resolved.
Galanz hopes to attract enough attention from Tmall executives.
In August 2020, users complained that Meituan Waimai could not use Alipay, which attracted public attention.
At that time, Meituan CEO Wang Xing said, "Why doesn't Taobao support WeChat Pay?"
Later, Ele.me official Weibo responded with a screenshot of Ele.me’s platform available for WeChat payment.
In February 2021, Douyin filed a complaint with the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, suing Tencent for abusing its dominant market position, restricting WeChat and QQ users from sharing Douyin content, and claiming 90 million yuan.
WeChat argued that Douyin illegally obtained the WeChat social relationship chain and induced sharing.
Later Douyin sued the Nanshan District Court in Shenzhen City for infringing on the right of reputation.
Looking abroad, the United States Federal Commission (FTC) has accused Facebook of imposing restrictions on third-party software developers, preventing them from connecting with the Facebook platform, and cutting off API access to weaken competitors’ efforts in social networking services, mobile communications and other social fields. potential threat.
On June 28, 2021, the U.S. District Court dismissed the FTC's lawsuit, arguing that Facebook has no obligation to help competitors under existing antitrust laws.
At present, many opinions in the industry believe that the opening of interconnection will have a greater impact on Tencent, and Bytedance and Ali's short videos and e-commerce will benefit from this.
A middle-level manager of a Tencent company told Shell Finance and Economics reporter, “The opening of barriers is definitely beneficial to everyone. In a fully competitive environment, a community with better content quality and better function settings can form a siphon effect in the long run. But for some Products with high traffic but imperfect functions will have an impact, and traffic will be divided."
Another executive of a leading Internet company said that it should indeed be open (interconnection), but in his opinion, how to determine induced forwarding, harmful links, etc. after opening interconnection is a difficult point, and the judgment of platform companies may be unfair. , But the country currently does not have a corresponding definition agency.
Pan Helin, executive dean and professor of the Institute of Digital Economy, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, is worried that this will affect the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
"What the market is worried about is that this convenience strengthens the competitive advantage of platform companies, which prevents small and medium-sized enterprises from building similar business models, which makes the market share of platform companies too large and affects the development of small and medium-sized enterprises and their competitors. For example, Taobao You can use WeChat to pay for shopping, which increases the convenience of consumers and improves the protection of rights and interests. However, for other payment tools and companies, the frequency of use will further decrease in the future." Pan Helin told Shell Finance reporter.
Deng Zhisong, the senior partner and co-head of the competition and anti-monopoly business of Dacheng Law Firm in China, believes that the pros and cons of interconnection should be judged from both the upstream and downstream perspectives and the horizontal and vertical perspectives.
"The applicability of interconnection may be embodied in the upstream and downstream operators (such as the underlying operating system and application software), and may also be reflected in the horizontal operators (such as two social media platforms). The underlying operating system is for the upper layer Applications may play the role of infrastructure, and there is no direct competitive relationship between applications and operating systems. Interconnection will not greatly weaken the competitive advantage of the system layer. And if it also affects horizontal competitors With the obligation of interconnection, the fungibility between applications may be greatly improved, and the competitive rights and interests of one application through input costs and innovation may be improperly weakened, and the order of market competition will also be affected." Deng Zhisong said Shell Finance reporter analyzed that.
He further suggested that if interconnection between horizontal operators is required, this system needs to be applied cautiously based on case analysis.
At the same time, when promoting interconnection, we should carefully consider how to determine the compensation rate, and try to ensure that operators can determine the cooperation method and content through equal commercial negotiations.
Chen Yongwei, research director of "Comparative" magazine, has published several columns on "interconnection".
He believes that the unwillingness of enterprises to conduct "interconnection" is more due to the "prisoner's dilemma."
"Of course it will bring more business opportunities. In fact, many companies do not have direct competition. Intercommunication can bring greater business benefits. The greater reason for the disconnection is due to a kind of'prisoner's dilemma'. ', I think that doing some small actions by yourself will definitely have greater benefits. But if everyone does this, eventually coordination will fail, each other will not be connected, and everyone will suffer."
2 There is no clear legal definition, "interoperability" and "data" become the key to landing
At the Alibaba Financial Reporting Analyst Meeting not long ago, Zhang Yong, Chairman of the Board and CEO, said: “We have noticed that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently launched a special rectification action for the Internet industry. The key rectification issues include malicious blocking of URL links and interference with other corporate products. Or service operation and other issues. We feel it is very necessary. We will face the future together with other platforms in accordance with government requirements and meet each other halfway."
Liu Chiping, executive director and president of Tencent, responded when asked by analysts in the second quarter report that the primary task of the Tencent ecosystem is actually to help small companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, brands and merchants succeed.
Tencent's ecosystem is fundamentally open.
Tencent has always adhered to this principle, established many different tools, and formulated many guidelines and operating rules to support this vision.
Now, when the platform actually interacts with the platform, different problems arise, and it becomes more complicated.
For example, will users be consumed, especially when other resource-rich platforms can provide subsidies.
And how to deal with counterfeiting and piracy?
How to deal with completely different business policies?
At present, the industry is most concerned about how to implement interconnection.
Zhao Zhiguo, Director of the Information Management Bureau of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, put forward three points when talking about the follow-up arrangements for the implementation of "interconnection": one is to strengthen administrative guidance, and to supervise and urge the implementation of enterprises that fail to rectify and reform; the other is to strengthen supervision and inspection, and ensure problems through various methods Rectification is in place; the third is to punish a group of typical companies that violate the regulations.
Deng Zhisong, senior partner and co-head of competition and anti-monopoly business of Dacheng Law Firm, executive dean and professor Pan and Lin Jun of the Digital Economy Research Institute of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, told the Shell Finance reporter that the meaning and scope of "interconnection" It is not clear, and there is no legal provision or judicial precedent to determine it.
In terms of purpose and effect, interconnection is a convenient way for platform companies to provide each other with resources, exchange traffic, and free ride each other. At the same time, consumers will also get convenience.
However, interviewees suggested that "interconnection" can learn from the related concepts of anti-unfair competition.
“In my country’s existing regulations, the concepts of'interconnection' that can be used for reference are'interoperability' and'open infrastructure.' For example, the Antitrust Guidelines of the Anti-monopoly Commission of the State Council on the Platform Economy Field promises'not to reduce mutual 'Operability level' and'open networks, data or infrastructure such as platforms' are used as remedies for operator concentration. However, the adoption of these remedies in operator concentration cases requires case analysis and is not generally applicable to platform companies. In general, there is no law in our country that clearly stipulates what interconnection is and under what conditions. This is a question that needs to be studied." Deng Zhisong told a reporter from Shell Finance and Economics.
Chen Yongwei has published many columns on "interconnection".
In his view, the key elements of "interconnection" are "interoperability" and "data portability."
Interoperability refers to whether an application can allow other application functions to be called and cooperate with it to complete tasks.
For example, whether Taobao can access WeChat is a matter of interoperability.
"Data portability" needs to consider whether users can take away the data related to them when they switch platforms.
For example, if a merchant transfers from Taobao to WeChat to do business, can it bring all the information about the purchase records and evaluations of its users?
However, the two concepts differ greatly in their definitions.
In terms of legislation, some regulations related to "interconnection" have appeared in the recent competition legislation of Europe and the United States. For example, the draft of the EU's Digital Market Law stipulates that certain large online platforms are obliged to ensure that their competitors can access under the same conditions. Its operating system, software and hardware functions and "interoperability".
The "ACCESS Act" of the United States also puts forward "interoperability" and "data portability" requirements for large platforms.
Europe and the United States have embodied the concept of prior supervision in these legislations, as well as clarifying the scope and obligations of large-scale platforms.
However, these legislations are still in the exploratory stage, and there are still doubts whether they can be implemented in the end.
Most of the interviewed companies told Shell Finance reporters that they hope to introduce more clear implementation rules.
There are three reasons for this: First, there is still a lack of clear provisions in laws and regulations regarding the connotation of the concept of "interconnection". To impose it on enterprises as a legal obligation, the boundaries of the concept should be further clarified.
Second, "interconnection" involves multiple interests. As far as platform companies are concerned, platform construction and the collection, processing, and processing of related data require companies to invest a lot of costs, forcing companies to implement them, and may dampen their enthusiasm for innovation.
Finally, "interconnection" has many difficulties in practical operation. For example, the "Personal Information Protection Law" has not yet been implemented, but it stipulates that personal information processors must obtain individual consent from individuals to provide personal information to third parties. The specific implementation has yet to be verified by practice.
3 Interconnection has become a global issue. How can my country learn from it?
The open Internet has become a consensus on a global scale. "Transparency", "Prohibition of blocking" and "Prohibition of improper discrimination" are the core three principles of the open Internet to ensure that all applications are treated equally when facing Internet access.
But Apple and Facebook are the first to make the wrong demonstration, but the results of the two are slightly different.
In the game company Epic Games v. Apple’s monopoly case, Epic Games used the “Walled Garden” as a metaphor to accuse Apple of relying on the App Store in a closed ecosystem to monopolize application distribution and weaken potential competitors with a 30% high rake. .
On September 14, the case rendered a verdict. The judge said that Epic Games failed to prove that Apple was an illegal monopoly or violated the antitrust law. Instead, it approved Apple's counter-sue Epic for breach of contract.
However, the judge issued a permanent injunction requiring Apple to allow U.S. developers to guide users to use payment methods other than Apple’s in-app purchase system, which also caused a major blow to the “Apple Tax”, the wealth-generating tool of the Apple App Store. This means that developers can provide their own paid links to bypass the 15% to 30% Apple tax.
The United States Federal Commission (FTC) has accused Facebook of imposing restrictions on third-party software developers, preventing them from interconnecting with the Facebook platform, and cutting off API access to weaken potential threats to competitors in social networking services, mobile communications and other social areas.
But on June 28 this year, the U.S. District Court rejected the FTC's lawsuit. The judge held that Facebook has no obligation to help competitors under the existing antitrust laws.
Foreign countries have also taken the lead in the demolition of the giant "secret garden".
In December 2020, the European Union proposed the "Digital Markets Act" (Digital Markets Act) draft, proposing the concept of "gatekeeper" to maintain a fair and open digital market.
The obligations of the "gatekeeper" include opening the ecosystem, granting users and authorized third parties access to data and facilitating access, and not being able to technically restrict end users from switching between different apps or services, etc.
In June 2021, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives also passed six bills aimed at strengthening antitrust enforcement and restoring online competition.
Among them, the "Enhancing Compatibility and Competitiveness Act by Enabling Service Exchange" (ACCESS Act) pointed out that in the digital economy, some markets have high barriers to entry, switching costs and other characteristics, making consumers and companies usually locked in large platforms On the other hand, there is a lack of more options.
In turn, this also increases the dominant position of large-scale platform companies in the relevant market and hinders the possibility of new entrants from entering the market.
The Act gives consumers the right to transfer data from one platform to another, and requires interoperability between the dominant platform and third-party platforms.
In Chen Yongwei’s view, the European Union’s draft of the Digital Market Act and the US’s Act on Enhancing Compatibility and Competitiveness by Enabling Service Exchange (ACCESS Act) have put forward some requirements for the access and interoperability of large platforms, but these bills Whether it can be passed in the end, and which platforms will be required to bear the obligations and what kind of obligations will be required by the final bill, there are still variables, and the text of the article itself is also very controversial.
Therefore, it is difficult to say that there are ready-made experiences for our country to learn from.
In the view of Professor Pan and Lin, the ideal "interconnection" should be fair and open, and openness cannot be limited to products and services, but also includes data openness.
Of course, data openness refers to opening to third-party small technology companies while ensuring data security, preventing large-scale platform companies from taking advantage of data to form a competitive advantage over small and medium-sized enterprises and hindering the development of small companies.
Therefore, the interconnection of platform-economy enterprises may not be the interconnection between platforms, but the interconnection and interconnection that is first open to small and medium-sized enterprises. In the future, considering fairness, it is more ideal to move to large platforms.
At the same time, it needs to be emphasized that interconnection should not be between two enterprises, but the fairness and openness of enterprises to all enterprises.
Attorney Deng Zhisong believes that the ideal platform economy interconnection should first protect the "competitive rights and interests" of platform companies, ensure that their investment in the establishment of data assets in the early stage can be effectively returned, and protect the enthusiasm of companies to carry out innovation and services.
Second, the personal information rights of users should be protected.
As the European Commission pointed out: "The purpose of data portability is to facilitate personal management of data. If the receiving party uses it for marketing purposes, the rights and freedoms of the data subject will not be respected."
Finally, to implement interconnectivity, practical problems should also be resolved, such as clarifying the boundaries of powers and responsibilities between different subjects, ensuring effective technical support, and clarifying the principle of compensation.
Bai Jinlei, Shell Financial Reporter, Beijing News