How to create an ad targeting social media users in China
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DANANG, China — It was early in March, and a small group of computer programmers were still trying to figure out how to use the tools of social media.
A few weeks earlier, the group had posted a photo on social media showing a young woman in a white dress, smiling broadly at the camera.
The picture had gone viral, drawing attention from social media and the wider world, and attracting the attention of a small Chinese company.
The group quickly noticed that many of its users had liked or commented on the photo, and the Chinese government had already taken notice.
Within hours, DANEGroup, a company that provides cloud-based ad creation software, had received dozens of automated messages from the Chinese Embassy in Washington and other countries demanding that it stop using the photo.DANEGroups response: “We have no right to use your photo,” it read.
“We don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, and we will not allow it.”
The message continued: “It will be considered a crime.”
It’s unclear what motivated the message.
Some of the company’s employees said the demand came from the embassy, and other employees said they received a message from the company on the same day.
But it’s also possible that the message was related to an unrelated matter: a lawsuit filed by DANAGroup and several other Chinese companies against a prominent US company, Granite, that had bought DAN Group’s software.
The case is one of several involving companies and governments targeting companies that they believe have violated intellectual property rights.
Some Chinese companies say that they have not received a direct threat, but that they’ve received a threat of legal action from governments.
And while the cases often have no bearing on the companies’ legal claims, they can have an outsized impact on the digital economy in China.
The Digital Economy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Michigan School of Law said the legal cases have become a regular feature of online conversations about intellectual property.
“It’s pretty much the norm to hear that the Chinese Government is trying to do this,” said Daphna Gopinathan, a professor in the Department of Law.
The government, she said, “seeks to establish the dominance of its own technology, to say, ‘You’re the only one who can have this,’ and the only way you can defend yourself is to sue your own competitors.”
But it may be easier for companies to get caught in the crossfire of a legal battle if they’re small and rely on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to generate traffic and sales.
“Companies are going to be more willing to come out and defend themselves in the court of public opinion,” said Mark Schleicher, who studies Chinese online censorship and policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Schleichel also said that some Chinese firms that do business with US companies have been able to get away with using Chinese companies’ software, even though some Chinese companies use American software.
“They’re going to say they have the right to do what they want,” he said.
“If the government is really worried about the potential consequences of using Chinese software, that may be enough to convince them to pay a bit more attention to what they are doing.”
But a company’s success depends on its ability to convince the Chinese leadership that it has the right strategy to respond to a threat.
That’s a challenge for China’s leaders, who have been increasingly frustrated by US companies’ success in the digital space and increasingly distrustful of foreign companies.
The US government’s role in China is growing in part because of its efforts to develop a more open Internet.
The government has pressured internet service providers to help the government block foreign sites and has banned VPNs that let people use the internet anonymously.
And it has pushed to crack down on foreign companies that use their software to track the location of their customers, including by tracking their location to see if they use a VPN.
The companies that are most likely to be affected by China’s crackdowns are likely to have a large footprint in the US, where they sell a lot of products and services.
The companies are also likely to rely on the vast majority of their US sales to be through US-based companies, which could be vulnerable to the government’s pressure.
The DANIGroup lawsuit comes at a time when the government has been working to crack the encryption technology behind online social networks.
Last month, the Chinese National Cybersecurity Centre announced that it had developed a new version of the country’s most powerful antivirus software, the SinoZ.
China is also working to create a digital blacklist of online speech, including “trolls” and “doxxing,” which are actions that target individuals to cause harm or create confusion.DATABASE TO FOLLOW:
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