Japanese art platform hits back at Chinese hackers with banned political keywords — Radio Free Asia

A Japanese art and manga website that was cloned by Chinese hackers has retaliated by encoding keywords and hashtags banned by Chinese censors into its code, prompting authorities to shut down the hacked version.

Pixiv, which describes itself as “an online community for artists”, is headquartered in Tokyo and offers a showcase for artists’ works, as well as a rating system with user feedback and comments.

It has been phenomenally successful, registering over 3.7 billion page views per month.

Then the entire site was cloned by Chinese hackers, who copied the site’s content almost verbatim, translating tags and titles into Simplified Chinese, and offering the hacked site vpixiv to users in mainland China.

Pixiv however fought back, with some users of the site adding “sensitive” keywords to their works, including “Tiananmen Massacre”, which alerted the massive censorship system of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), supported by the government.

Other sensitive and banned keywords included “Free Hong Kong”, “Taiwan Independence” and “June 4, Tiananmen Square”, all of which are heavily censored terms behind China’s Great Firewall.

Germany-based university professor Zhu Rui said the move deliberately and ingeniously manipulated government censors in China.

“Japanese artists hacked on Pixiv were forced to take this action as a last resort to defend their rights,” Zhu told RFA. “The hacked website was later shut down by the CCP’s iron fist, which was great to see.”

Chinese pirate site vpixiv has been shut down by authorities after illustrators used banned words. Credit: Screenshot from vpixiv website

Piracy and plagiarism

Zhu said Chinese hackers have a long history of cloning platforms invented elsewhere.

“Some [people] plagiarize other people’s creations or steal technology overseas, then put their name back on it in China, and make a lot of money when it becomes famous,” Zhu said. “The vast majority of Chinese netizens love it.

A comment on a Chinese social media platform joked about Pixiv’s decision, saying “insulting China has become the best defense against theft”, while another lamented the effect on the image of the countries abroad: “Counterfeiting from China adds to our international humiliation,” the user said. wrote.

France-based cultural commentator Wang Longmeng accused the CCP’s authoritarian regime of stifling innovation.

“This kind of surveillance leads to a lack of freedom and creativity, so China, which has lost the ability to innovate, has become the champion of intellectual property theft,” Wang said. “China’s reputation as a hearty nation is well deserved.”

“Everything, it seems, is stolen, from high tech to art… I just didn’t expect the magic weapon that will defeat them to be their own sensitive keywords,” he said. -he declares.

“It’s another concrete example of how they shoot themselves in the foot.”

Pixiv is not the first platform to use this method. Taiwanese YouTubers have been known to add tags like #WinnieThePooh to their videos to prevent them from being reposted on Chinese video-sharing sites like Bilibili without permission.

Any mention of Winnie the Pooh has been banned from China’s tightly controlled internet after users made memes and jokes on social media suggesting the fictional bear resembled CCP leader Xi Jinping.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.