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TikTok owner to partner with Chinese state media firm for blockchain digital rights

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Over the weekend, it was reported that a unit of ByteDance, the owner of the popular TikTok short video platform, established a joint venture with a Chinese state media group to explore AI and blockchain applications.

“The joint venture will focus on partnership in the digital rights of short videos,” a ByteDance spokeswoman told Reuters.

Founded in 2012, Beijing-based ByteDance is one of the most prominent startups in China. SoftBank and Sequoia Capital backed the firm.

ByteDance operates several mobile entertainment apps such as TikTok, Vigo Video and Helo, among many others. Back in October, the company refuted claims of going public at a valuation of about $78 billion, a Reuters report said.

The partnership with the state media group will add to the controversy surrounding Bytedance. Last month the U.S. government initiated a national security review of the TikTok app following the 2017 acquisition of a U.S. company Two U.S. senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton triggered the review over concerns that the platform was collecting user data and whether China censors content seen by U.S. users. As a result, ByteDance is apparently trying to ringfence the TikTok app from other operations.

The recent deal between ByteDance’s unit Beijing Liangzi Yuedong Technology and Shanghai Dongfang Newspaper is to set up Pengpai Audiovisual Technology (Jinan). Based on the comment from the company, it is possible that blockchain may be used to secure the digital rights of short videos.

The question is whether the technology might also make its way to the TikTok app, one of the most popular mobile apps in the world, known for its 15-second videos. As of December, the app has over 1.5 billion users, with 60% of the monthly active users from the U.S., with users mainly between ages 16 to 24.

Meanwhile, China’s open support of blockchain has led to several new initiatives in the past few weeks. Provincial governments in China are experimenting with blockchain for public services. Internet courts in the country have implemented blockchain for evidence to expedite the copyright claims process, among other things.

Another Chinese internet major, Baidu, has launched PIC-CHAIN blockchain for image copyright protection on its existing library.