US lawmakers question NewsBreak over Chinese origins and AI-generated stories

The lawmakers are concerned about NewsBreak’s links to Chinese investors and its presence in China. In response, NewsBreak claims to be an American company.

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Three US lawmakers have raised concerns about NewsBreak, a popular news aggregation app, due to its Chinese origins and use of AI tools that have produced erroneous stories. Senator Mark Warner, chair of the Intelligence Committee, emphasised the threat posed by technologies from adversarial countries. At the same time, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi highlighted the need for transparency regarding any ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Representative Elise Stefanik pointed to the backing by IDG Capital, a Beijing-based private equity firm, as a reason for increased scrutiny.

NewsBreak, launched in the US in 2015, was originally a subsidiary of the Chinese news app Yidian, founded by Jeff Zheng. Despite being labelled an American company by its spokesperson, court documents and other evidence reveal historical links to Chinese investors and engineers based in China. Notably, Yidian has received praise from Chinese Communist Party officials for disseminating government propaganda, although there is no evidence that NewsBreak has censored or produced pro-China news.

The primary investors in NewsBreak include San Francisco-based Francisco Partners and Beijing-based IDG Capital. IDG Capital, which the Pentagon has listed as allegedly working with Beijing’s military, denies any such association. Francisco Partners has described the scrutiny as ‘false and misleading,’ but the lawmakers maintain their stance on carefully examining the app’s potential risks to US interests.