ESWN translated a story that illustrates, for me, the speed at which digital content can go from private to full-on mainstream public in China. It’s a significantly different understanding of the unspoken rules of Internet privacy, than in say, the U.S.. (Not that these rules aren’t constantly being rewritten: think of the recent Jason Fortuny “sexbaiting” story, in which he posted detailed responses from folks answering a sex want ad on Craigslist). But there are so many people doing stupid, rude things online in the U.S. that it takes a lot to get anyone to pay attention. In China, however, representations of certain kinds of acts (and I’d like to think more about what kinds of acts these are) are unbelievably inflammatory. It must be terrifying to be caught up in.
Here’s the story this time: Some friends went to the Madame Toussaint Wax Museum in Shanghai and did some really stupid things with the wax statues, snapping pictures of themselves along the way (they said they just got carried away spoofing 恶搞).
(By the way, don’t you wonder how they got away with this? There must have been hundreds of other people around!). Then they uploaded the photos to a computer so they could forward them to friends. Someone posted them on a major BBS, and lots of people were upset, which led to criticisms, responses, apologies, and eventually mainstream news stories in (at least) the People’s Daily.
According to Roland Soong’s translation of a Shanghai Media Group interview with one of the friends:
I mean to say that I did not want to publicize this little thing. I just want to share them within a small circle of friends. But as soon as it got forwarded to a mainstream website, the effect becomes different.
The story also highlights the power of the major portals and their BBS’s.