Writer gets kicked out of draft novel by Chinese word processor

The Chinese word software has millions of users logging in every month.

The Chinese word software has millions of users logging in every month.
Photo: Stiffener (PA)

A Chinese software developer is facing backlash after a writer accused its word processing software WPS of excluding it from a new draft, saying the document contains “sensitive content”. WPS has denied the allegations, but more users have reported similar experiences, raising concerns about the extent of online censorship by Chinese authorities.

The Chinese novelist, who goes by the name Mitu, was using WPS, which is similar to Google Docs, to write her novel, when she suddenly couldn’t access the document on June 25. Mitu spoke about his experience through the Chinese literature forum Lkong, saying that WPS was “snooping and blocking my draft”, according at MIT Technology Review. His plight has been shared across various online platforms, with several people reporting that the same thing has happened to them before.

Meanwhile, WPS released a statement on Weibo, denying that the software would block any of its users from accessing a document. However, WPS went on to say that any online service in China is required by law to review content on its platforms, but would protect the security of user information. Mitu said she reported the issue to WPS and eventually got access to the document, according at the South China Morning Post. Nonetheless, the incident prompted several users to respond to WPS’ statement by stating that they would uninstall the software.

WPS documents are not end-to-end encrypted, allowing the company to view the contents of the documents. But the latest move to lock a user out of their document has sparked an ongoing discussion about online censorship in China and the extent to which tech companies are obligated to compel authorities. The Chinese government has one of the largest online censorship apparatuses in the world, known as “Great Firewall of China“, which employs millions of people following and blocking content.

This is the first time WPS has been involved in a public outcry against censorship, raising fears that ChChinese authorities can now interfere with personal documents even before they are published by restricting users’ access to them.

Irene B. Bowles