MySpace now available in China - minus politics and religion
UPDATED: MySpace, the world's largest social networking website, has finally come to China, the world's most populous nation. After months of delays, China's 1.3 billion citizens are now able to create their own pages on the Chinese-language version of MySpace. But unlike MySpace in other countries, sensitive topics like religion and politics are nowhere to be found on the Chinese site, and users are asked to report 'subversive' activity.
MySpace, which already has more than 100 million users worldwide, is backed by News Corporation, one of the world's largest media groups. The company formally announced MySpace China yesterday, and the site went live shortly after midnight in China, with a layout which mimics that of its main global site - with a few key differences.
Discussion forums on subjects like religion and politics are nowhere to be found on the new Chinese MySpace site, even though these are popular topics on other international MySpace sites. Instead, users are only offered safer topics for conversation, such as humor, sport and movies.
Users are told to click a button if they spot any 'misconduct' by other users. This 'misconduct' includes actions such as 'endangering national security, leaking state secrets, subverting the government, undermining national unity, spreading rumors or disturbing the social order' – according to the site's terms and conditions (Chinese page).
Attempts to post content containing a variety of sensitive terms, such as 'Taiwanese independence', the 'Fa Lun' meditation movement or the Dalai Lama, produce the following message. 'Sorry, the article you want to publish may contain inappropriate content. Please delete the unsuitable content, and then try reposting it. Thank you. '
Domain Names lost
Most potential Chinese domain names for MySpace were snapped up by cybersquatters or others, after MySpace neglected to register them, as Texyt reported earlier this week. The company's Chinese site is located at MySpace.cn, a departure from normal MySpace practice of adding national sites as a sub-domain of its main MySpace.com site (such as uk.myspace.com). This appears to underline a clear division between the existing MySpace and its Chinese offshoot.
MySpace China to be locally managed
Unlike most other Western internet companies in China, MySpace China will run independently of the international head office, the company's CEO in China, Luo Chuan, told reporters, according to Chinese website, Finance World (Chinese language link).
The local management has “total control” over MySpace operations in China, Luo stressed. With 130 million internet users in China, the company is aiming first at the core group of 30 million regular users, he told reporters.
Luo said the site must attract active users, not just lurkers who don't add content. However, MySpace has not said how it will find its way through the minefield of government censorship and political control that has hurt other Western internet firms in China.
Yahoo, for example, has been sued by users who were imprisoned after the Chinese government allegedly used Yahoo data to track them down when they posted politically-sensitive information.
"In recent months, the Chinese authorities have sought to further tighten controls over the Internet. This has been followed by further censoring of certain Web sites, blogs and online articles," Amnesty International claimed in a briefing on human rights in China this week.
However, by not even offering discussion forums on contentious issues like politics and religion, MySpace appears to be setting down firm guidelines to users. The picture here shows these hugely popular topics on the main US-based MySpace site - they are not present on the newly-launched Chinese MySpace site.
MySpace China's content filter
Even searching in English for the name of the Dalai Lama, generally acknowledged as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is enough to invoke MySpace's content filter in China, as the screenshots above show. The Chinese-language message that appears warns that the search phrase contains 'inappropriate content.' and continues 'Please delete the unsuitable content, and then try reposting it. Thank you.'
Updated April 29: Added comment from Amnesty International