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Japanese artists manipulate the Chinese government to great success

What happens when online pirates based in China straight-up clone a beloved Japanese art site, art and all? The artists fight back by manipulating the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censorship machine.

The site in question is Pixiv. It’s racked up 3.7 billion page views a month as users share art and manga. Pirates took notice, as they do, and started stealing the whole dang site.

According Yitong Wu, writing for Radio Free Asia, the thieves were copying “site’s content almost verbatim, translating tags and titles into simplified Chinese”. They then shared the site to Chinese users as “vpixiv”.

The artists didn’t take that lying down. Here’s Wu again:

Pixiv fought back, however, with some of the site’s users adding “sensitive” keywords to their artworks, including “Tiananmen massacre,” which alerted the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s massive, government-backed censorship system.

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

The CCP’s censorship system noticed and, ah, did it’s thing. Vpixiv was shut down.

Mock the Chinese government, stop IP theft

This isn’t the first time creators have poked at the CCP’s insecurities to stop pirates stealing their stuff.

According to Wu, “Taiwanese YouTubers have been known to add keywords like #WinnieThePooh to their videos” to stop them being shared across Chinese video-sharing sites.

(The CCP is not a fan of Winnie. People have long used the silly ol’ bear to mock Chinese president Xi Jingping.)

The strategy has been noticed by people in China. Here’s Wu again:

One comment on a Chinese social media platform joked about Pixiv’s move, saying “insulting China has become the best defense against theft,” while another bemoaned the effect on the country’s overseas image: “Counterfeit China is adding to our international humiliation,” the user wrote.

It’s a shame tech companies can’t do the same to stop all the rampant theft of their work. (But I guess those companies are too thirsty for cheap manufacturing and Chinese middle-class consumers to really worry about it.)

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