Thursday, January 14th 2016
Interesting details of how the Chinese government and the Communist Party work with providers to control the internet were provided by columnist Li Yuan in a January 13, 2016, report, “For Chinese, a Riveting Look at the Web,” in The Wall Street Journal. Here are a few details from her report on the publicly streamed trial of Wang Xin, CEO of Shenzhen QVOD Technology, charged with three other executives with “propagating pornography for profit.” (This short gist omits the report’s other details on the prosecution and the social media commentary the trial has generated.)
- . . . the trial demonstrates the Chinese state’s increasingly firm control of Internet companies, the random and messy nature of the country’s legal system, and the curse of the original sin of the Chinese Internet industry.
- According to testimony, QVOD worked closely with online censors. The Shenzhen Internet police had an office in the company, according to testimony, confirming rumors that police started stationing themselves at sizable Internet companies years ago.
- To keep “unhealthy” content off its service, QVOD built a censoring system called 110, using the same number as the national police hot line. The system blocked both websites and keywords of video files based on suggestions from the Internet police and user reports. According to one of the defendants, five to six people worked from August 2012 to October 2012 to put all the websites and keywords the police passed on into the system, which was then updated daily. By early 2014, the company blocked more than 4,000 sites.
- Some online comments say that QVOD is simply paying the price for committing the so-called original sin of the Chinese Internet industry: playing too close to the edge of online piracy and pornography.
- But government policies often leave the boundaries ambiguous. Critics have for years argued for a rating system for movies and video content in China. Some say with a clear rating system, the QVOD case might not exist. But the Chinese business world is kept intentionally in a million shades of gray. Few are completely clean, so all are subject to the state’s whim.