It might be on your iPhone or Android device. You might be relying on it for the latest news. If so, thank the Chinese government.
It’s called “News Break,” and it’s the #1 news aggregator app in America. But, like TikTok, the popular media app for creating viral video clips, which has YouTube scrambling to feature similar short videos, the “free” News Break app comes at a price.
That price might be the communist Chinese government exerting influence over what news is promoted and most viewed on the platform and also having access to detailed data of Americans and their news consumption.
According to recent reports in The Epoch Times and Techcrunch, New Break is the brainchild of Jeff Zheng and Ren Xuyang, both seasoned Chinese media pros, with help from teams in Beijing and Shanghai on the mainland to Seattle and Mountain View in the U.S.
Before founding News Break, Zheng helmed Yahoo Labs in Beijing, directing algorithm and other improvements for the search and media company. In 2011, he left Yahoo and formed a Beijing-based news app service called Yidian Zixun. Company co-founder Xuyang, meanwhile, was formerly an executive at Baidu.
For all intents and purposes, New Break is just the American extension of Yidian. The company’s website used to note:
“In April 2015, Yidian Zixun established Particle Media, an affiliate company in Silicon Valley, to launch its global strategic deployment, and the English version of Yidian Zixun, News Break, was recommended by the U.S. App store twice in a row and has become a popular news aggregation application in the United States.”
Local News by Americans via China?
News Break is noted for its focus on local and regional news, which makes it attractive in a time when smaller newspapers have folded or been swallowed up by a few giant media corporations.
Who are those contributors? Local American writers, who sign up to News Break as writers. The slick platform allows writers to promote their stories via social media, encouraging others to get the app and subscribe to their feeds. Writers earn money from advertising and incentives based on views.
An ecosystem of more than 10,000 contributors currently provides content. The app has 23 million users a month, and it is present on an estimated 50 million Apple and Android devices, mostly in the U.S.
There’s obviously a niche to be filled regarding local news coverage. The problem is, a Chinese company with ties to a Communist regime infamous for controlling information and crushing dissent is filling it.
The News Break site also touts its ties to major American news organizations including CNN, The New York Times, and others. Their top feed features stories typical of the bias of those sources. A snapshot of that national feed on 6 June 2021:

Recently, the company has taken steps to buy up American talent, partially to shield itself from accusations of being a tool of Chinese authorities. The biggest acquisition has been Harry Shum as Board Chairman. Shum, former head of Microsoft AI and that company’s Research Asia lab, has experience and ties to business in that part of the world.

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