THE INNOCENCE OF TECHNOLOGY

Research and Images Compiled by Selene Zhang and Katrien Jacobs

On Thursday, Jan 7, 2016 the Beijing Court began hearing a case about the Chinese Internet firm Qvod which was accused of spreading pornography online[1]. The prosecutors alleged that some 21-thousand files of pornographic materials were found on three different servers run by Qvod.[2] The Qvod player was a powerful media player offering diverse functions such as a search engine and P2P online sharing. Since the sexual explicit materials were widely unchecked, the player had become a “must-have for the the Chinese otaku”.

Four executives then stood trial at the Haidian District People's Court. The trial lasted 20 hours and was broadcast live on the Internet. This kind of live broadcast of court trials had occurred previously in China but never with this degree of openness about a sensitive topic like pornography[3]. Even though the company eventually lost the court case, it was not just broadcast to demean and chastise them (as would be the case in forced televised confessions) but to give them a genuine chance to defend their operations.

Qvod Technology Co. is a Shenzhen-based online media player service founded in 2007. People would use the service to share  pirated and pornographic videos by means of peer-to-peer video streaming technology. Hence the user base quickly grew to 500 million.[4] In April 2014, the company had to shut down its Qvod servers and was fined 260 million yuan ($39.52 million) after the National Copyright Administration said it that it had violated copyright laws. After the court cased its services have not been resumed.

One of the three business associates, Wang Xin defended its operations in court by saying that Qvod has no control over the content that its users watch. In response to the prosecution's argument that the combination of the keywords "porn" and "Qvod" produced substantial online results Wang proudly answered: "Online pornography is not a mainstream product on the Internet. Therefore, (the success) of Qvod could not be based in pornography in the same way that Taobao didn’t grow successful by selling copied brand products. How about you try typing 'porn' and 'QQ' together into Baidu? "[5]

He then coined the term of “the innocence of technology” :

"Qvod is simply a tool used by people to play videos, and its function is just like a DVD player. Even though it has been used by many to watch or spread pornography, the responsibility should lie with those users, rather than with the defendants."

"From the perspective of the criminal law, Qvod, as a media player provider, is not required to conduct substantive examinations about the legality of video content. That duty belongs to the organs of state power, such as the public security department."

The trial was conducted with a sense of grace and humor and triggered heated online debates among Chinese netizens. Many web users watching the live broadcast were impressed with Qvod CEO Wang Xin's self-defense and testimony. The argument that the company “was not a content provider, and that its platform had been abused by its users” attracted a lot of support. In the screenshot of the live broadcast, people were commenting positively using words such as  “Great job!” “Proud of you!” “This court is not fair for them.” People began advocating the innocence of Qvod. Feng Md52014 wrote in zhihu, “How much do you need to release them? Let’s do a crowdfunding campaign! I will donate 100 now!”. Young people were using this case to joke around with the authorities. MeiHuaDuo wrote “The most ironic thing about the court is that everyone present in the court would be watching porn with Qvod secretly at home.”[6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People's Daily, one of the country's most widely circulated newspapers, quickly published an article entitled "However Wonderful, Qvod's Argument Is Not Worth Applauding." Xinhua News Agency, another official news agency, however, published a commentary entitled "The Right of Defense Should Be Applauded No Matter If Qvod Is Guilty or Not." But Jiang Jun, spokesperson of the Cyberspace Administration of China took a typically stern position in his statement:

The open trial of Qvod will serve as a lesson for other websites and Internet users. We firmly support the legal investigation of Qvod's case involving pornography. We hope that Internet users respect our law in making opinions online and support the judicial organs' handling of the case.

[1] “China-Court Trial/Qvod,” Jan 7 2016. http://newscontent.cctv.com/NewJsp/news.jsp?fileId=335462

[2] “Intense Debate in Court for Video Player Qvod Case.” CRIENGLISH. Jan 10 2016. http://english.cri.cn/12394/2016/01/10/4203s912152.htm

[3] “A Lesson From the Qvod Case” Beijing Review. Feb 18 2016. http://www.bjreview.com/Opinion/201602/t20160214_800048739.html

[4] Qvod player was a powerful player including diverse functions like search engines and P2P online sharing. Lower resource consumption, simple operations, high efficiency and scalability and other features made it very popular amongst user mobs. Since the sexual explicit materials were widely unchecked, it became a “must-have of the Chinese otaku”.

[5] Qvod CEO on trial for disseminating pornography wins netizen support with spirited defense

 http://shanghaiist.com/2016/01/12/qvod_pornography_case.php

[6] “快播案中为什么大众持快播无罪态度?” 知乎. Jan 19 2016. https://www.zhihu.com/topic/19576565

FULL VIDEO OF THE TRIAL OF QVOD