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Alibaba Chief Advocates Tough Love - Like Tiananmen Square

Alibaba Chief Advocates Tough Love - Like Tiananmen Square

Today in international tech news: A Chinese Internet mogul's comments about Tiananmen Square rile Chinese netizens and prompt a quasi-retraction. Also: England's top soccer league wins a court order to block a website peddling unauthorized streams; the European Commission reminds Google about that whole antitrust thing; and the U.S. blames China for failed tech tariff negotiations.

By David Vranicar
07/18/13 9:03 AM PT

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and executive chairman of Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group, said that China's move to violently squelch Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989 was "the most correct decision," adding that "a leader needs to make this kind of decision."

The remarks -- made to the South China Morning Post in May and posted to the outlet's website over the weekend -- have drawn criticism from Chinese netizens and prompted a quasi-retraction from Ma, who said that the quotes "did not reflect what I told the reporter."

The South China Morning Post said it stands by the transcription.

Ma's Tiananmen remarks came in the context of explaining a decision he had made following revelations of fraud within his company. "As a company CEO," he said, "no matter if it's the Alibaba incident, no matter if it's splitting off Alipay, at that point, it's just like Deng Xiaoping during 6/4."

"6/4" refers to June 4, 1989, the day that Deng Xiaoping -- then the Chinese headman -- ordered the military to disperse the Tiananmen protesters, a decision that led to what is believed to be hundreds of deaths.

The Tiananmen comments were removed for a few hours from the SCMP website but were later reposted. The newspaper said that a staff member had made "unauthorized changes."

Ma must have been in rare form during the interview. He also referenced "foreign devils" who accuse the Chinese government of controlling the Internet. If you have 600 million Internet users, Ma said, "this kind of control is impressive."

[Sources: South China Morning Post; The Wall Street Journal]

English Premier League Granted Block Against Streaming Site

The English Premier League, England's top soccer league, won a court order to force British Internet service providers to block FirstRow1.eu, a streaming hub operated out of Sweden that links to a slew of unauthorized video streams of EPL games.

Boasting big-name clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, the EPL is the most popular soccer league on the planet -- indeed, its website boasts that it is "the world's most watched league." This has made television rights obscenely lucrative and, by extension, made illicit streams, which flaunt licensing agreements by broadcasting matches over the Web, that much more of an issue.

BSkyB, for instance, is paying roughly US$1.15 billion per season for broadcasting rights, while fellow broadcaster BT Sport is paying about $375 million per season.

While the UK has been proactive in weeding out copyright-infringing sites -- British ISPs have been ordered to block The Pirate Bay and numerous other file-sharing sites -- this marks the first time a sports-specific site has been ousted. FirstRow1.eu is also the first site to be targeted in the UK that facilitates access to external streams, as opposed to offering streams itself. (The U.S., on the other hand, has long gone after sites providing links to unauthorized sports streams.)

A spokesperson for FirstRow1 told the BBC that it had no plans to shutter, which means people outside of the UK should still have unfettered access to the EPL.

[Source: BBC]

European Commission to Google: We Mean It

The European Commission on Wednesday warned Google that legal action awaits should the search giant fail to appease antitrust concerns.

Europe's antitrust tiff with Google dates back more than two years and could be coming to a head after the company's April concessions failed to appease fed-up competitors. Now Google must offer new ideas for how it plans to satisfy regulators and competitors who think the company is abusing its market dominance (Google has a 90 percent share of the search market in Europe).

Google's previous offers included identifying promotional links found on its results page. Alas, this merely emboldened Google critics, who said that such a plan would give Google products even more prominence and further solidify its dominance.

If EU regulators deem Google guilty of unfair practices, the company could be fined up to 10 percent of its global annual revenue.

[Source: The Guardian]

China Blamed for Failed Negotiations

In the latest U.S.-China tech spate, U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman and the Washington, DC-based Information Technology Industry Council were among those who blamed China for the disintegration of talks aimed at eliminating duties on some electronic devices.

China sought to exclude many items from the negotiations, which would have applied to the International Technology Agreement. The current ITA was signed in 1996, obviously predating many technologies that are commonplace today.

China reportedly wanted to remove more than 100 items from the proposed list of 260 products that would be exempted from duties. This, according to the Information Technology Industry Council, would unfairly benefit China by preventing tech products from reaching the Chinese market.

[Source: Bloomberg]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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