On the morning of July 13, users woke up to find that the majority of foreign TV shows and films had disappeared from Bilibili, an online video sharing and social platform. Months before the 19th Communist Party Congress, China’s tech firms had already been feeling the chill of media regulation. Real-name registration was enforced for users and many companies hired extra staff to screen online discussions.

Bilibili announced (in Chinese) the next day that the blackout was a result of “self-censorship” without elaborating on what that entailed. There was no notice from state media watchdogs. Fans flocked to online forums fathoming what might have happened, lamenting Bilibili’s future prospects in an increasingly strict media environment.

In the past eight years, Bilibili has evolved from an obscure and sometimes marginalized community for anime, comic, and gaming (ACG) fans into a “spiritual home” for over 7,000 culture groups that has turned the heads of Chinese tech titans. A whopping 90% of its users are under 25, who post, view, and comment on videos in the form of danmu, real-time audience commentaries that roll across and atop the streamed videos.

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

What you get

Full access to all premium content and our full archives

Members'-only newsletters

Preferential access and discounts to all TechNode events

Direct access to the TechNode newsroom

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.