The million-word novel was censored before it was published. Now Chinese users want answers.
The news blew up social media on July 11 after several well-known bloggers belatedly picked it up. It became the most popular topic on Weibo that day, and users wondered if WPS was violating their privacy. Since then, the Chinese edition of The Economic Observer informed that the drafts of several other online writers have been blocked in the past for unclear reasons.
Mitu’s complaint sparked a discussion on China’s social media about censorship and liability of the tech platform. It also highlighted tensions between Chinese users’ growing privacy awareness and tech companies’ obligation to censor on behalf of the government. “Perhaps this is the case where we see that these two things can really collide,” says Tom Nanlist, a Chinese cybersecurity policy and data analyst at Beijing-based research group Trivium China.
While Mitu’s document was saved online and previously shared with an editor in 2021, she says she was the only person editing it that year when it was suddenly blocked. “All content is clean and can be published even on [literature] website, but WPS decided it should be blocked. Who gave him the right to view users’ private documents and decide arbitrarily what to do with them? she wrote.
First released in 1989 by Chinese software company Kingsoft, WPS claims have 310 million monthly users. It benefited in part from government subsidies and contracts as the Chinese government sought to strengthen its own firms against foreign competitors for security reasons.