29 April 2007

Slashdot has been jumpin’ about a line in the MySpace China Terms and Conditions that says users can “click a button” to report inappropriate conduct. Inappropriate content includes, in China’s case, “undermining national unity”, “cult and feudal superstition”, or “undermines social stability” I mentioned previously. It’s not exactly a button that you click - what the terms refer to is the contact link at the bottom of every page, and to select the “report inappropriate content” choice for your subject heading. It’s practically identical to the “report inappropriate content” feature in MySpace.com. The difference here, of course, is the legalese in the Terms and Conditions that refers to “undermining social stability” and all that.

What’s interesting is that you can report international pages as well, so it’s not simply asking Chinese users to report dissidents or pornographers on MySpace.cn, but those anywhere on the global MySpace network. If I file a complaint about an American users MySpace.com page, it is sent to MySpace.cn (when I’m logged into MySpace.cn). It will be interesting to see if how Chinese users will respond to this. Assuming the Chinese government does not impose a list of their own of MySpace pages they don’t like, it will be up to Chinese consumers to report sites that have politically incorrect speech.

If the Chinese government does impose a list, then there’s still nothing to stop dissenting MySpace users abroad from creating new pages. One could imagine “MySpacebombing” becoming a form of protest speech.

Of course, the real question is, what will you see when you visit a banned international page on MySpace.cn? Will you see the “Profile Undergoing Maintainance” message, or will they be more forthright about why it’s not there?

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