Although News Break is a “born and bred” American company, it is essentially an overseas version of the mainland app platform “One Information”.
Recently, the American economic magazine The Wire China published an article titled “Whose News? in an article titled “Whose News? The article points out that although News Break is an aggregated platform app for local news in the U.S., its roots are in China and it has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
According to the article, News Break is positioned as a news aggregation platform focused on local reporting in the U.S. and saw a huge increase in users during the Chinese Communist Party virus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to research firm Sensor Tower’s website, News Break ranked as the No. 1 downloaded popular news app in the U.S. in 2020, with an estimated 23.7 million installs on both U.S. app stores, well ahead of CNN and Fox News. News Break now claims 45 million active users per month and It is ranked #1 on Google Play and #3 on the Apple News app.
Searching for “free news apps” in the Apple Store, News Break is ranked #1 with the slogan “Localize everything”. (Image source: mobile screenshot)
However, it was revealed that News Break is not rooted in the local American community it serves, and that the so-called local news is made by someone else. In fact, it is an AI data-driven news delivery, or aggregation app that forwards feeds from mainstream news outlets, founded in Silicon Valley by Chinese entrepreneurs and computer scientists, much like Google and Apple’s news apps, but with more Americans reading News Break.
Headquartered in Mountain View, California, News Break was reportedly founded in 2016 by former Yahoo executive and founder of “a little information” Zheng Zhaohui and former Baidu executive Ren Xuyang, with offices in Seattle, Beijing and Shanghai, respectively.
As local media is squeezed by tech giants and mainstream media, thousands of local newspapers are closing down, leaving millions of Americans without an important source of local news. Unlike the mainstream media, News Break’s entry point is precisely a local information service in North America, drawing traffic by aggregating local news.
News Break’s chief operating officer, Wu Yongsheng, also said that the company’s slogan “localize everything” and its commitment to “reviving the local news ecosystem” were based on strong demand for local news. Only high-quality, highly relevant local news can provide readers with valuable information.
Zheng Zhaohui was the founder of the interest engine “One Point” launched by Beijing-based “One Point” Technology Co. According to an article on China Science, One Point News has established friendly relations with 100 central ministries and offices of the Communist Party of China, covering the party, government and military, and is “highly recognized by central ministries, agencies and local governments. In 2017, “a little information” became the first private mobile Internet enterprise and information platform to obtain a news license. “One is to “become a mobile government information publishing platform that tells the story of Xinjiang and spreads the good voice of Xinjiang”, and the other is “an outlet for Xinjiang government information. “.
According to a report published by the Global Network in 2015 entitled “a little information into the United States founder will personally go to supervise the battle”, “a little information” official said that the establishment of the U.S. company, is “a little information The report shows that the official statement of “a little information” is that the establishment of the U.S. company is a key step in the globalization of “a little information”… to “interest engine” into the U.S. market… to become an innovative Chinese Internet enterprise with a real global technological influence. Zheng Zhaohui said in the article, “Let the teams in China and the U.S. play the maximum synergy.”
Based on the above information, many observers question: who is behind News Break?
Martin Hála, an economist and China expert at Charles University in Prague, told Connect China, “It’s a company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, including overlap in personnel, operations or technology development.” Because of this relationship, News Break is not “immune to pressure from the Chinese Communist authorities.
As we all know, platforms such as Shake TikTok, Zoom, and News Break are no stranger to Americans, and have seen a spike in adoption, especially during the epidemic. However, in addition to TikTok, whose “Chinese heritage” has sparked controversy over data security and privacy issues, many Americans are unaware of the Chinese connections or heritage of other software applications.
Despite repeated statements by News Break spokesman Greg Vederman, News Break is an American company: American headquarters, American data, and investments in the United States. The company would politely decline interviews that focused on the Chinese element. But Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has suggested that the Chinese Communist Party will adopt a “borrowed ship” approach to distribution with foreign newspapers, such as “China Watch” in the laminated pages of mainstream media. “etc.
The China Connection article notes that it is unclear whether News Break is borrowing the boat or building the boat, but News Break’s corporate history suggests that it has much closer ties to the CCP than it might admit. The article also looks at News Break’s ties to One Information and Phoenix New Media. While News Break says it no longer has the slightest connection to Phoenix, it acknowledges that its early backers were companies partially owned by the Chinese Communist government from at least 2015 to 2019.
According to News Break spokesman Widman, the app’s data is hosted on Amazon Web Services servers in the United States and is beyond the reach of the Chinese Communist government. But data scientist Danny Chow argued that News Break’s data requests are broad in scope, “which is very invasive. I can see this as a potential privacy risk.” He added that the app accesses users’ cameras, contacts, location and storage, among other things, “and of course it’s not the only app that does this, but essentially it’s a tracking app. We should be wary of any application that comes with these terms.”
As for how to respond, Connect China interviewed several experts, some mentioning registering as a foreign agent, others arguing that the government can’t interfere with the media, and some saying the U.S. should do more to increase transparency and protect Americans’ data, even if it doesn’t have a red flag, it could put up a yellow flag to draw attention to it.