The news broke on social media on July 11 after a few accounts of prominent influencers picked it up late. That day became the main topic of trend on Weibo, and users wondered if WPS infringes on their privacy. Since then, The Economic Observer, a Chinese publication, has reported that several other online novelists have had their drafts blocked for unclear reasons in the past.
Mitu’s complaint sparked a discussion on social media in China about censorship and the responsibility of the technology platform. He also highlighted the tension between the growing awareness of Chinese users about privacy and the obligation of technology companies to censor on behalf of the government. “This is a case where perhaps we’re seeing that these two things could really collide,” says Tom Nunlist, China’s cyber and data policy analyst at the Beijing-based research group Trivium China.
Although the Mitu document has been saved online and previously shared with an editor in 2021, she says she had been the only person to edit it that year, when it suddenly crashed. “The content is clean and can even be published in a [literature] website, but WPS decided that it should be blocked. Who gave him the right to consult users’ private documents and decide what to do with them arbitrarily? she wrote.
First published in 1989 by Chinese software company Kingsoft, WPS claims to have 310 million monthly users. It has benefited in part from government subsidies and contracts, as the Chinese government sought to strengthen its own companies vis-à-vis foreign rivals for security reasons.