Chinese word processor WPS accused of censorship after author says she was locked out of 1.3 million-character document
- The software from Kingsoft Corp has been mired in controversy since an author said she was locked out of her own document stored on the cloud platform
- The operator of the office suite, similar to Microsoft 365, said it does not censor files, but anger online has persisted amid accusations form other users
Chinese software developer Kingsoft Corp is facing a crisis of trust after being accused of locking a novelist out of her own work written in the word processing software WPS over sensitive content, a practice the company denies.
After trending on social media, the issue has caught the attention of state media and other users have come forward with their own experiences about being locked out of their files.
At the heart of the issue is the WPS cloud platform, which like Microsoft 365 allows users to work with files stored on company servers or locally through desktop programs. The writer, who goes by the pseudonym Mitu, claimed she was unable to access her unpublished 1.3 million-character document either from the cloud or the desktop WPS client, which told her “the file may contain sensitive content and access has been disabled”. It could still be opened with other tools, including Microsoft Word and Tencent Docs.
In her posts, Mitu said she eventually reported the problem to WPS, which apologised and restored access within two days. The file was not problematic, Mitu said the company told her.
Despite this, the incident has generated heated discussions online about privacy. In its statement, WPS sought to assuage these concerns.
“We take strict encryption and desensitisation measures to protect the security of user information when we review the content,” the company said.
WPS and Kingsoft did not respond to requests for comment.
That announcement also trended on Weibo, where users continued to express anger about the company’s practices.
As more people began sharing on social media their own accounts of having files blocked by WPS, state-run newspaper Southern Daily called the incident a “trust crisis” for WPS and urged the company to be responsible.
“If users start to rethink whether WPS is reliable and consider it necessary to turn to more secure products, the situation [for WPS] will be very difficult to change,” reads the piece published on Tuesday.
In another example, the state-backed newspaper The Economic Observer talked to a writer in the southern city of Guangzhou going by the pseudonym Liu Hui, who said he had a document of nearly 10,000 words that was blocked on July 1.
The controversy comes amid increasing awareness of data privacy and security issues among Chinese netizens. Beijing has tightened regulations and laws in the past year concerning cybersecurity and data handling practices.