Chinese tech giant Tencent is suing rival Toutiao for 1 yuan, which is worth about 12 pence, over alleged defamation.

Toutiao, also known as Bytedance, runs Tik Tok, a video app that has recently become wildly popular in China. The app has become the most downloaded iPhone app globally. It’s known as Douyin in Chinese.

According to a WeChat post put out by Tencent, the firm is suing Toutiao because of alleged changes made to a report in its news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao. Tencent says the changes caused damage to its reputation.

Chinese whispers

Bosses at Tencent say that Toutiao made it look like a report on the negative effect that online games have on children was published by state media agency Xinhua News. Tencent says this not true, and that the real publisher was Xinhuanet.com.

The original article was picked up by Toutiao. It then appeared on Baidu News. On Baidu News it had a different headline that said the report came from the state media. Toutiao in turn ‘pushed’ this report and attributed it to the state media.

Toutiao’s woes

Tencent has now said it will be taking the smaller company to a Beijing court. There it will argue that it has suffered more than one instance of defamation at the hands of Toutiao. Tencent will be asking for 1 yuan and public apologies on Toutiao’s apps. It has also suspended any collaboration between the two companies.

This is not the first time there has been legal action between the two companies. Toutiao last month sued for 1 million yuan, arguing that Tencent has been spreading false information on its WeChat app.

Toutiao is VC-backed and said to be worth more than $30 billion (approx. £22.5 billion). It is one of the few Chinese tech firms to disrupt the dominance of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Those three companies completely dominate the country’s tech market. If its growth continues in this way, China’s tech ‘big three’ could become a quartet.