With Steam against China's porn censorship

Steam of all places offers a way of getting porn past the censorship in China. The authorities look the other way – but for how long?

When it comes to sexual morals, the leadership of China, the world’s largest cyberdystopia, doesn’t take a joke. Player characters are banned if they are “effeminate”. How they measure this remains a secret of the censors. They don’t talk about homosexuality in China. Prostitution is forbidden there, as is pornography. That doesn’t stop millions of people from earning their living with sex.

The interest in porn is also great. But how can users smuggle relevant material past the censorship? This is not an easy undertaking, because the technical measures taken by the Great Firewall are very sophisticated. But: It is opposed by the swarm intelligence of over a billion people, and they can be very creative.

The Wallpaper Engine, an app on the Steam gaming platform, seems to be very popular in mainland China. The program, created by two German developers, is supposed to replace the boring background images of the operating system with animated ones.

According to a report by MIT Technology Review, users use exactly this mechanism to drag erotica and porn to their desktop. About 7.5% of the more than one and a half million community offers to which one can subscribe have sexual content. Most of them are anime characters in provocative poses. In my random sample (no pun intended) I find more erotica than explicitly pornographic material – also a method of testing the limits of censorship. The app is not only popular in China: the very low price is below what most subscriptions to other relevant internet offers are allowed to cost.

How long will censorship in China look away on Steam?

Wu Gan, China, Große Firewall

As of last year, China has required VPN services to access certain offers on Steam. Otherwise only the strictly censored Steamchina remains, which is also only tolerated. This fuels fears that the censorship board will block access to the wallpaper engine on Steamchina, or all access to the provider altogether. Since the gaming platform is one of the few ways to keep in touch with people beyond China at all, it would not only be a heavy blow for lovers of porn. The manufacturer of Steam itself could also ban the wallpaper engine from online offerings.

Chinese users report that Steam moderators have already deleted wallpaper engine content. What nature they were is unclear. They ask each other not to raise the issue so as not to draw the attention of the censorship authorities.

The question remains how the wallpaper engine can stay under the radar of China’s censorship authorities for so long. And also how long that will be the case. They might have noticed that such a simple app is a perennial favorite in the Steam charts and therefore worth investigating. In the reviews of the Wallpaper Engine, of which, after all, 200. in Chinese are, even the most unimaginative paragraph stallion would have to realize that a not inconsiderable part of the offer is NSFW. But maybe employees of state censorship don’t want to let their source of porn dry up. After all, they are only people with natural needs.

Be careful with porn

The wallpapers But Engine also has its downsides. The software does not always seem to run stably. “Cause a fatal error or 128 warnings in the editor” is an achievement that at least a third of users have achieved. There are also some security concerns away from China. In the reviews, users warn of malware, the high potential for addiction and the danger that friends will see the subscriptions on Steam.

It is probably only a matter of time before the roller of state censorship also affects the wallpaper Engine flattened. Until then, we wish the users a lot of fun with the app.

Tarnkappe.info

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