Anger Over BiliBili Censorship Could Tip China Toward Rating System
Several Chinese app stores pulled video platform BiliBili‘s app from their offerings after suffering another hard hit from government censors. Reports suggest the removal is strongly connected to state media outlet CCTV’s criticisms of its content.
Calling some of Bilibili’s content vulgar and inappropriate, CCTV condemned the video community for posting sexual content that involved young girls, and possibly brother-sister incest.
As a result of negative press and app deletions, BiliBili’s stock price fell 8.4 percent to close at $12.23 per share.
The censorship was met with many negative comments on Chinese social media.
Search results for ‘BiliBili and CCTV’ on Weibo showed many BiliBili users disagreeing with the state media’s arguments and the application’s removal from app stores.
“Please share this post. We will not back down from CCTV. Let’s preserve and protect BiliBili!” a Weibo user wrote, criticizing state media.
“CCTV must be jealous of Bilibili‘s accomplishments. Its shows have higher view counts and more attention than CCTV’s news,” a Weibo user named 2035WuCi wrote.
In addition to emotional comments, some Weibo users brought up the frequently discussed issue of rating systems. China has yet to set up any rating system for videos, movies or television shows contents.
Currently, Chinese websites receive censorship orders and ‘guidance’ from the Chinese Cyberspace Administration and the Chinese State Administration of Radio Film and Television. This guidance includes orders to take down, delete or not recommend content the authorities see as unfit. Given the vague standards and protocols, the Chinese authorities responsible for censorship are very powerful in terms of the range and depth at which they can control content in Chinese cyberspace.
Many BiliBili users argue that contents that may not be appropriate for all audiences should be available for certain groups. A rating system similar to that in western countries will certainly help both the audiences and content producers in making better movies, shows, or any forms of content available for views.
In 2018, there were several attempts by movie producers to voluntarily adapt some form of rating system. Several movies included recommended ages and Parent Guidance Signs. However, these ratings were not approved or endorsed by Chinese authorities.
The lack of a rating system leaves the majority of content available on the Internet up to the whims of censors. If Chinese authorities see it as a problem, then it will be considered a problem: if no authorities point their finger at it, then it will survive no matter how outrageous it may be.
“While it’s OK to put violent scenes from anti-Japanese shows on TV, it is not OK for animations to show some part of a fictional figure’s body,” a Weibo user wrote, pointing out the limitations of the current censorship system in regulating Internet content.
Calls for a Chinese rating system date back almost 20 years. When Chinese audiences first saw the violent and graphic scenes in Saving Private Ryan, some believed the different audiences should be presented different versions of the movie.
Little has been done to establish an effective rating system. For China’s censorship officials, the creation of a rating system would curtail their power. Instead of having the arbitrary authority to take down videos and movies as they wish, a rating system would force them to follow a protocol and a set of laws.
In addition, the Chinese Cyberspace Administration and State Administration of Radio Film and Television need an arbitrary standard to achieve their goals of taking down content that may impose threat to Chinese leadership.
Yet for BiliBili, animations and cartoons the state media sees as inappropriate are key content for the young community. In 2016, BiliBili reported that more than two thirds of its users are younger than 25. Censorship of the younger generation’s core interests may create a damaging backlash against the ruling regime and a negative impression of Chinese governance.
Having 100 million active users on board, any impact and change the state imposes on BiliBili could have a huge effect on future Chinese adults. Youth contempt for the regime’s recent censorship spree may force the government re-evaluate its position on censorship and ratings.