The news exploded on social media on July 11 after some prominent influencer accounts were slow to learn of the news. It became a trending topic on Weibo that day, with users questioning whether WPS violated their privacy. Chinese publication The Economic Observer has since reported that the drafts of several other online novelists have been locked in the past for unknown reasons.
MiTu’s complaint has sparked a social media discussion in China about censorship and responsibility for tech platforms. It also highlights the tension between Chinese users’ heightened privacy awareness and tech companies’ obligations to censor on behalf of the government. “In this case, maybe we see that these two things could really collide,” said Tom Nunlist, a China network and data policy analyst at Beijing-based research firm Trivium China.
While MiTu’s document has been kept online and was previously shared with an editor in 2021, she said she was the only one who edited it this year, but was suddenly locked out. “The content is so clean that it can even be published in [literature] website, but WPS decided to lock it down. Who gave it the right to see users’ private files and arbitrarily decide what to do with them? ‘ she wrote.
WPS, first released in 1989 by Chinese software company Kingsoft, claims to have 310 million monthly users. It benefits in part from government grants and contracts as the Chinese government looks to back its own companies over foreign rivals on security grounds.