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"Alibaba Logo" Site
Type Technology company
Launch Date 1999
Status Active
Product Line E-commerce
Platform Cloud Service
Android Tablet
Android App
iOs App
libaba Group Holding Limited, or Alibaba,
is a Chinese multinational online ecommerce and technology company. Over the last year alone, Alibaba's online sites totaled $248 billion in transactions, making the website one of the fastest growing ecommerce stores.[1] Further, an estimated 80% of the Chinese online commerce markets is controlled by the Alibaba Group.[2] The website was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma and 17 others in Hangzhou, China. Since the platform was open to everyone who had access to the Internet, the founders' philosophy was that the website would allow smaller companies and technological innovation to thrive in global markets.[3] Alibaba, in addition to maintaining, also owns and, both widely used online shopping stores by the Chinese customer base.[4] Alibaba makes the majority of its revenue through hosting advertisements on its websites.[5]

Alibaba ranks 23rd on Forbes' Global 2000 2021 list, and 11th on the same magazine's Top 100 Digital Companies 2019.[6] The Alibaba Group made an estimated $200 billion yuan in the 3rd quarter of 2021, equivalent to about $31 million in USD.[7] Although recently, Alibaba has hit a decline in terms of profit, with the adjusted amount for the month of November 2021 being 28.52 billion. This 39% decline in profit was the company's first in 22 quarters. [8]

The technology company has been at the center of multiple ethical concerns. Alibaba has a reputation for hosting numerous counterfeit sellers on their websites, with an estimated 70% of all counterfeit goods originating from China.[9] Because millions of Chinese workers produce large quantities of counterfeit goods, the Chinese government abstains from persecuting the counterfeiting issue. In 2021, the Chinese government took steps in regulating Alibaba by issuing a $2.8 billion fine for violating anti-monopoly regulations. In response, the Alibaba Group did not deny the accusation, and resolved to paying the 18 billion yuan fine, 4% of Alibaba's total sales in 2019.[10] Most recently, the ecommerce company is under fire for sexual misconduct allegations after a female employee wrote an 11-page essay detailing her experiences with assault in the firm.[11]


The founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, was born on September 10th, 1964.[12] Ma had originally wanted to become an English teacher, but after securing a teacher position and failing to attend Harvard University, he recognized a hole in the Chinese ecommerce market. Starting with $35 million, Jack and his group of 18 technological pioneers created Alibaba. Two years later, in December 2001, surpassed 1 million registered users.[13] Eventually funded with more venture capital, the Alibaba Group added more websites to their roster like, Ali Wangwang (a messaging application that made it easier to look up consumer goods), and Alipay. Later on in 2005, Alibaba was allowed to partner with the United States web service provider, Yahoo.[14] In 2007, Alibaba launched a monetization platform, Alimama. Two years after, the Alibaba Group established their own cloud services provider, Alibaba Cloud. The arrival of the Alibaba Cloud service also marked the company's tenth anniversary.[15] 2010 noted some of the first instances of U.S. businesses displaying products on the Alibaba website, including Ray Ban and Gap.[16] Since the company's conception, Jack Ma has stepped down as CEO of the group, as well as from his chairman position in 2019.[17] In his place, current CEO of the Alibaba Group, Daniel Zhang, will take his place as chairman. As recently as November 2019, the Alibaba Group was listed on the Main Board of Hong Kong's stock exchange.[18]

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma


The main website,, presents a wide array of products available to buy in bulk, ranging from consumer electronics to food and beverages. is a global business to business marketplace where buyers can contact sellers to purchase their desired goods. Because is B2B facing, many buyers on the website are commonly wholesalers or manufacturers that are buying bulk materials and goods from other businesses.[19] Included on the website and available to sellers are tools used for global sourcing. One of these tools is automatic translation of messages on one's storefront. Buyers can send messages to a seller in one language, and the text of the return message will be automatically translated and sent back. The marketplace also has a currency conversion tools that functions similarly, so consumers and suppliers do not have to manually calculate currency differences.[20]

The Alibaba Group logo

Affiliated Companies

Internet Messaging and Services

Founded in 2003 by the Alibaba Group, is a large, Chinese, online retail platform. The website allows businesses and individual consumers to contact each other to buy goods across China and globally. Ali Wangwang was also developed by the Alibaba Group to provide a medium for buyers and sellers to reach agreements regarding the sale of products on According to a research study conducted by Jie Gao and Zhenghua Zhang in 2011, around ninety-nine percent of buyers on reported using Ali Wangwang to communicate with sellers before making a purchase on the website. Additionally, more than 77% of buyers on used Ali Wangwang to contact sellers before every transaction they made.[21] The same study found that privacy and safety concerns involved with Ali Wangwang affected user satisfaction with the messaging platform. Chinese users who were satisfied with the service said that they received less spam messages and had less privacy concerns than those who were dissatisfied with the service. Those who said that they received spam messages and were tolerant of them likened them to the way retailers make cold calls to consumers, as they were often advertisements by sellers on[22]

Cloud Computing

Alibaba Cloud was founded in 2009 and is a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group. Three years after Amazon created Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alibaba introduced a cloud computing service called Aliyun. In 2015, they would later rebrand to Alibaba Cloud. The service, including both cloud computing and artificial intelligence, provides for thousands of businesses, government, and other organizations across over 200 countries.[23] Alibaba Cloud's international headquarters is located in Singapore, and the subsidiary has operational teams located in Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, San Mateo, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo.[24]. Per the Alibaba Cloud website, the service is ranked number one in Asia Pacific, number one in China, and number three in the world amongst cloud service providers.[25]

Entertainment and Media

In 2016, Alibaba acquired the remaining stake of Youku Todou Inc, a Chinese-based video hosting platform, for $4.4 billion.[26] As of December 17, the video hosting platform had an estimated 374 million monthly users, according to QuestMobile figures (a China-based big data services provider).[27] In 2018, Alibaba's digital media and entertainment division experienced a 20% yearly growth in revenue since their purchase of Youku. Since 2018, Alibaba has not released figures about Youku's average daily subscriber growth.[28]

Ethical Issues

Environmental Flaws

In 2013 Jack Ma, former CEO of the Alibaba Group, said that he believes that the pollution in China should be reformed. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Ma said that a new goal for Alibaba was to help China revitalize its environment and to help resolve water, air, and food security issues.[29] Alibaba and its logistics child company, Cainiao, have attempted to move towards environmentally friendly packaging techniques in the past, including using biodegradable plastics. Coming from the Western-targeted online magazine Sixth Tone in 2017, a toxics campaigner at Beijing's Greenpeace, Liu Hua, argued that the biodegradable plastics that Cainiao intended to roll out by 2020 would only biodegrade under specific circumstances.[30] The criteria involved in order for the packaging materials to biodegrade would lead to most of the packaging remaining in place in landfills. Cainiao's promotional material explained that the green materials will biodegrade in 180 days. Though, according to a researcher at the Rock Environment and Energy Institute in Beijing, Mao Da, the materials would only biodegrade in 180 days in a composting plant, of which are few in China.[31]

Sexual Assault and Harassment

In the past year, the Alibaba Group has been the focus of a sexual assault allegation. In August 2021, Alibaba received an 11-page document that explained how on a business trip, a female employee was forced to drink and then was sexually assaulted by her boss. The allegations were met with surprise by Alibaba employees, as around a third of Alibaba executives are women and because the company claims it has an efficient HR system which maintains staff identity along the values of Alibaba.[32] While the individual who was said to have committed the act was let go, there was no ongoing criminal case against him. In December 2021, an article came out on BBC that reported that the woman who had made the allegations was fired the month prior. In her termination letter, it said that she spread misinformation regarding the events of the business trip and about the steps the company took in response. Per the same article, the man who was accused of rape admitted that he had engaged in sexual activity with her while she was inebriated. While the Chinese government dropped the case, the man who allegedly sexually assaulted the Alibaba employee, Mr. Zhang, was placed under arrest by prosecutors.[33]

Counterfeit Goods

While Jack Ma has made it known that he is against the sale of counterfeit goods, the Alibaba Group has had numerous instances of exporting counterfeit products. Taobao, owned by Alibaba, was classified by the United States as a "notorious market," meaning that it is in strong violation of world IP, trademark, and copyright laws.[34] Craig Crosby, a publisher of The Counterfeit Report, disclosed that his firm removed 18 million cases of infringing goods and that Alibaba's counterfeit regulatory program is exceedingly arduous for rights holders to navigate and persecute.[35] Alibaba has also recently taken steps to mitigate some of the counterfeit luxury goods that are available on its website. Using an AI platform developed in the Alibaba Turing lab, the company is able to determine counterfeit logos of luxury goods in approximately 30-50 milliseconds, scanning from a database of 13.7 billion pictures.[36]

Security Breaches

In November 2019, a software developer web-scraped Alibaba's shopping platform,, for eight months. This resulted in over 1.1 billion pieces of user information and data being collected before Alibaba was able to notice the scraping.[37] The information that was gathered included user IDs, mobile phone numbers, and customer comments. The People's Court of Suiyang District presided over the crime, stating that two criminals (the software developer and his employer) were involved. After a formal police investigation commenced, both individuals were sentenced to imprisonment for over three years and were fined one hundred thousand and three hundred fifty thousand yuan for infringing on personal information.[38]

Alibaba's cloud services have also been probed for potential security concerns. The U.S. presidential administration has recently launched an investigation into Alibaba Cloud, focused on its data storage practices for U.S. clients. The investigation is based around the potential for the Chineses government to gain access to U.S. personal information and intellectual property.[39] In Alibaba's 2021 annual report, there were concerns flagged surrounding the platform's U.S. operations. The Chinese company said that U.S. individuals with whom they have contracts or other relationships with may be forbidden from continuing business, including the use of their cloud computing services.[40]

Facial Recognition

Alibaba Cloud Service

The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has developed facial recognition software that specifically targeted Uighur members of China. The U.S. video surveillance information source, IPVM, reported that face detection technology existed within Alibaba's Cloud Shield service.[41] The facial detection could be used to recognize videos created and distributed by Uighur people for the purpose of reporting them to authorities. Uighurs who livestreamed videos on websites affiliated with Cloud Shield were given flags for the video to be removed or reviewed.[42] The website displayed to buyers of Alibaba's Cloud software that the technology could also be used to identify ethnic minorities, including a guide for the targeting of Uighurs.[43] An Alibaba Cloud spokesperson said that the facial recognition was limited to a testing environment, and that the extent of its targeting was used so that the company could test the extent of its capabilities.[44]

Monopoly Concerns

On April 10th of 2021, the Chinese government fined Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for 18 billion yuan (equivalent to around 2.75 billion dollars). China had probed the company and found that Alibaba had taken advantage of its dominant holding on the e-commerce and technology market for years.[45] The main focus of the investigation was a practice that forced sellers to choose one out of two platforms rather than being able to engage with both. China's State Administration for Market Regulation said that this practice eliminates competition amongst online retailers and that it infringes on the rights of e-commerce consumers. In accordance to the State Administration's verdict, Alibaba will have to report self-examination and compliance reports to the Chinese government for the following three years along with the fine.[46] Alibaba executives responded to the fine and regulations by stating that they would implement measures to reduce barrier to entry and the costs faced by sellers. Alibaba also reassured its investors that they would be cooperating with anti-monopoly regulators by making it less expensive for merchants to use their platform and removing competitive restraints on other platforms.[47] Executives of Alibaba also said that they believed the regulatory focus on Alibaba would end after the company was hit with the fine. The company's shares were reported to have climbed by 9% after the anti-monopoly fine.[48]


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