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USA: Employees petition against Shutterstock's new Chinese search blacklist

Author: Sam Biddle, The Intercept, Published on: 11 November 2019

"Shutterstock employees fight company’s new Chinese search blacklist”, 7 November 2019

SHUTTERSTOCK, THE WELL-KNOWN online purveyor of stock images and photographs, is the latest U.S. company to willingly support China’s censorship regime, blocking searches that might offend the... government, The Intercept has learned…

… in China, there is now a very small, very significant gap in Shutterstock’s offerings. In early September, Shutterstock engineers were given a new goal: The creation of a search blacklist that would wipe from query results images associated with keywords forbidden by the Chinese government… which The Intercept is told went into effect last month…

Shutterstock’s censorship feature appears to have been immediately controversial within the company, prompting more than 180 Shutterstock workers to sign a petition against the search blacklist and accuse the company of trading its values for access to the lucrative Chinese market…

Shutterstock’s founder and CEO Jon Oringer replied to the petition several days later… Shutterstock’s pro-censorship compromise with the Chinese government was justified, Oringer argued, because to refuse to do business in China rather than help the country’s government expand its information control scheme would be the real act of craven corporate turpitude: “Do we make the majority of our content available to China’s 1.3 billion citizens or do we take away their ability to access it entirely? We ultimately believe, consistent with our brand promise, it is more valuable for storytellers to have access to our collection to creatively and impactfully tell their stories.” Shutterstock with a bespoke censorship feature was “more empowering” and “will better serve the people of China than the alternative,” Oringer continued…

Following Oringer’s letter and the implementation of the search term blacklist, some employees fear the use of censorship at the company will grow…

In an email to The Intercept, a Shutterstock spokesperson confirmed that the censorship feature is currently active, though they would not confirm whether the banned keyword list has been changed or expanded since it first went into effect… “We want to provide access to our content to everyone, everywhere. It is our mission to empower creativity and storytellers around the globe. We are also bound to local laws and therefore face a choice.We ultimately believe, consistent with our brand promise, it is more valuable for storytellers to have access to our collection to creatively and impactfully tell their stories. That is much more empowering and will better serve the people of China than the alternative.”... 

[Also referred to Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, NBA, Google and Zcool]

Read the full post here

Related companies: Apple Blizzard Entertainment Google (part of Alphabet) NBA