Discuss: Is Line Wrong to Censor Politically Sensitive Words in China?

Willis Wee
2:00 pm on May 24, 2013

Line app censors Chinese words

I think no one likes to be censored, and that includes me. But sometimes, you can’t have total control over everything, especially when you are doing business in another country. When it was uncovered that Line is ready with filters to prevent the sending of politically sensitive words for the Chinese version of Line (branded “Lian Wo”), the natural reaction of most people was that it is a bad thing.

I thought so too. But when you cover or work in the Chinese internet industry, censorship slowly becomes the norm. It’s common practice in China, across the internet and all offline media, that you self-censor first so that you don’t even trouble the censors. If you don’t want to follow this rule, then get the hell out of China. Run far away.

Now, let me repeat that I’m not a fan of censorship. But at the same time, after complaining about why the hell China blocks certain websites and has certain restrictions, I’ve grown to understand that every country has its own rules and you have to obey them to conduct business there. Period.

So would Line be wrong if it were to really censor politically sensitive words in China? That word filter within the Line app is not yet switched on, but it’s ready to be activated. I personally don’t think Line is wrong because the company has simply followed the rules of the country and the censorship will only apply to its Chinese app. I’m sure there are people who disagree. If you are one of them, kindly share your thoughts in the comments.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

  • Benson Lin

    People should not look at China through western standards. I agree with author but don’t agree with censorship. Line is just following custom but i puzzled why Weixin got no censorship and Line need to have it?

  • http://thenextweb.com Jon Russell

    Hey Willis,

    You are absolutely right. Line does have a choice but, if it is serious about China, it has to make this concession. From my own point of view, I was critical that it appeared Line was ‘filtering’ conversations from all users, despite the censorship only covering those in Mainland China.

    Actually, now the company is refuting that and it says the system is only for the China-only service, which seems wholly reasonable.

  • http://www.techinasia.com Willis Wee

    Hey Jon! Yeah, it’s great that it is a China-only “service” if that is the case, i think it’s okay. but i wonder if the Chinese government will force Line to apply this “service” worldwide. Hmmm… that will suck badly. Good scoop btw :)

  • Freedom

    Wrong, so wrong. Why take the freedom of speech from people? We are born free men in this world.

  • http://Tech.qq.com Antimage

    Lianwo no wrong. China is wrong so I disagree with you

  • quorumforum


    Of course you don’t like Censorship because you know it’s wrong, So why do you think it is “Ok” for a “Company” to do what individuals know is wrong.
    All these Companies scrambling to gain a foothold in China’s growing economy are only making China stronger along with their worldview that “Censorship” is OK. Are you Naive enough to think that a Strong China is going sit still and maintain the Status Quo? China is already flexing it’s muscles in the South China Sea. All of China’s asian neighbors already have a Target drawn on them for one reason or another be it fishing rights or natural resources. As they say “No Man is an Island” even your small decisions matter. Do you really think it is ok to Sell your morals for money? Sell your sister into prostitution because the price is right? Wrong is Wrong. There really is a “Big Picture” you should look at it sometime, it’s quite interesting.

    Quorumforum * “Some Assembly Required”

  • Kyle

    I disagree countries may have their own rules but that doesnt mean we have to agree with them. When South Africa had aparthied countries and indivduals stood up againt them, the world should shame china as well.

  • http://www.techinasia.com Willis Wee

    Wrong is subjective here u see. Same for many rules in many countries. So either u follow or don’t. I agree with Kyle that u need not obey but if u don’t then you can’t do business in that country. Doesn’t just apply to freedom of speech but also tax and other regulations

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