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Protocol | China

Chinese nationalists gear up for a 'Delete DiDi' campaign

They're calling the company and its executives "traitors," "running dogs" and worse.

DiDi's logo shown on a rendering of a smartphone
Didi is the largest ride-sharing company in China.
Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

First it was Alibaba in nationalist crosshairs. Now it's DiDi, which stands accused online of being a "sellout," a "Han traitor" and a "capitalist running dog." What happened?

The car-hailing giant with a 90% market share in China is under regulatory scrutiny in its home country shortly after its $4.4 billion U.S. IPO. China's Cyberspace Administration announced July 2 that it was reviewing the company's data infrastructure. On July 4, the administration ordered DiDi be removed from app stores due to "serious violations of laws and regulations in collecting and using personal data," further fueling public fury. Since then, instead of pining for DiDi's return, web users have traded unsubstantiated speculations about the company transferring troves of sensitive user, geographic and traffic data to the U.S.

There's no evidence that DiDi has handed its data to U.S. authorities, and Chinese laws ban companies from offering data stored within the country to foreign justice or law enforcement agencies without government approval. But that's not stopping the uproar.

On social media platforms like Weibo and Zhihu, web users have widely circulated a 2015 big data analysis that used aggregated data from DiDi to illustrate the amount and patterns of overtime that staff at central government agencies clocked, citing it as evidence to back their claims of DiDi leaking sensitive data — even though the aggregation was originally published by state news agency Xinhua.

The fact that DiDi's two major shareholders, SoftBank and Uber, which collectively owned 34.3% of the company pre-IPO, are non-Chinese companies, in the eyes of nationalists, is another sign of the company's disloyalty to China.

After digging through DiDi's prospectus, nationalistic web users also discovered that one of DiDi's board of directors, Adrian Perica, an Apple vice president, is a U.S. Army veteran. "How much sensitive data has this American army officer obtained from DiDi in the past five years?" DiDi critics asked out loud.

"As a vehicle for hire company, [DiDi] can be completely replaced or shut down from the national security perspective," a distressed tech blogger with nearly 3 million followers wrote on Weibo. "If it crosses the red line, not only the country will not tolerate it, I am afraid the people will not, either."

DiDi is under a cybersecurity review aimed at assessing the national security implications of the procurement and installation of "network products and services" by operators who are deemed to be "critical information infrastructure operators," of which DiDi is one. "Network products and services" can be equipment that includes computers, servers, databases and cloud computing. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese officials are concerned that if the equipment for DiDi's servers were procured overseas, it could expose DiDi's data to security risks.

Not only DiDi has faced fervent nationalist condemnation: Its president, Jean Liu, and her father, Liu Chuanzhi (founder of the computer maker Lenovo), have been drubbed on the Chinese web. "It's really a family with treasonous genes," one Weibo user wrote.

Facing mounting criticism, on July 3, DiDi Vice President Li Min took to Weibo to refute that "DiDi's domestic data is stored on domestic servers, and there is no way that the data will be handed over to the United States." In a separate post, Li added: "That includes traffic data. Please stop malicious speculation."

But Li's clarification barely made a dent. The most popular comments under his posts suggest commentators believed DiDi has violated Chinese laws and applauded authorities' decisions to protect national security and personal information. As an editorial by the nationalist, state-backed Global Times put it, the removal of DiDi's app "boosts public confidence." DiDi did not respond to a request for immediate comment on the social media firestorm.

Not only are nationalistic web users not content with DiDi's response, but DiDi users are actively deleting the app, posting screenshots to show their boycott resolution. A post that suggested car-hailing app alternatives on Weibo has been reposted over 20,000 times.

"I am Chinese, and I am proud, but some people like DiDi Chuxing would sell out the country for money, Chinese traitors are coming," a Weibo user wrote, adding that DiDi president Liu and CEO Cheng Wei "would rather be American dogs than Chinese!"

"I hereby ask everyone to delete your DiDi Chuxing account... so they can't earn a penny in China."

Bursts of nationalistic fervor have swept across China in the past few years as geopolitical tensions between Beijing and a host of foreign countries, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan, have escalated. Just this year, grassroots nationalists launched hate campaigns against feminist activists, popular science bloggers and queer communities, cobbling up what they consider evidence of the individual's or groups' foreign associations in order to expose their disloyalty to China or what they assert as anti-China sentiment.

Following the collapse of Ant Financial's IPO last November, China has entered a new chapter in what looks like a square-off between the country's increasingly nationalistic citizens and its increasingly beleaguered tech giants. Alibaba founder Jack Ma's treatment online is another example of this dynamic. He was once feted as "Daddy Ma" online, and Alibaba spinoff Ant Group was poised for a massive November 2020 public offering. Now regulators have put that IPO on ice, and Ma is condemned online as "an evil capitalist."
Protocol | Workplace

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates

An employee walkout, a tumbling stock price and damning new reports of misconduct.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is in crisis mode. The World of Warcraft publisher was the subject of a shocking lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week over claims of widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination against female employees. The resulting fallout has only intensified by the day, culminating in a 500-person walkout at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine on Wednesday.

The company's stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard's initial response was "tone deaf." Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry's largest and most powerful employers.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Workplace

Founder sues the company that acquired her startup

Knoq founder Kendall Hope Tucker is suing the company that acquired her startup for discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Kendall Hope Tucker, founder of Knoq, is suing Ad Practitioners, which acquired her company last year.

Photo: Kendall Hope Tucker

Kendall Hope Tucker felt excited when she sold her startup last December. Tucker, the founder of Knoq, was sad to "give up control of a company [she] had poured five years of [her] heart, soul and energy into building," she told Protocol, but ultimately felt hopeful that selling it to digital media company Ad Practitioners was the best financial outcome for her, her team and her investors. Now, seven months later, Tucker is suing Ad Practitioners alleging discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Knoq found success selling its door-to-door sales and analytics services to companies such as Google Fiber, Inspire Energy, Fluent Home and others. Knoq representatives would walk around neighborhoods, knocking on doors to market its customers' products and services. The pandemic, however, threw a wrench in its business. Prior to the acquisition, Knoq says it raised $6.5 million from Initialized Capital, Haystack.vc, Techstars and others.

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Megan Rose Dickey
Megan Rose Dickey is a senior reporter at Protocol covering labor and diversity in tech. Prior to joining Protocol, she was a senior reporter at TechCrunch and a reporter at Business Insider.
dei
Protocol | Workplace

What’s the purpose of a chief purpose officer?

Cisco's EVP and chief people, policy & purpose officer shares how the company is creating a more conscious and hybrid work culture.

Like many large organizations, the leaders at Cisco spent much of the past year working to ensure their employees had an inclusive and flexible workplace while everyone worked from home during the pandemic. In doing so, they brought a new role into the mix. In March 2021 Francine Katsoudas transitioned from EVP and chief people officer to chief people, policy & purpose Officer.

For many, the role of a purpose officer is new. Purpose officers hold their companies accountable to their mission and the people who work for them. In a conversation with Protocol, Katsoudas shared how she is thinking about the expanded role and the future of hybrid work at Cisco.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Protocol | Fintech

The digital dollar is coming. The payments industry is worried.

Jodie Kelley heads the Electronic Transactions Association. The trade group's members, who process $7 trillion a year in payments, want a say in the digital currency.

Jodie Kelley is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association.

Photo: Electronic Transactions Association

The Electronic Transactions Association launched in 1990 just as new technologies, led by the World Wide Web, began upending the world of commerce and finance.

The disruption hasn't stopped.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

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