Shutter Stock management requested staff to comply with China’s censorship request or leave the company, reported NBC News.
The internal recording revealed, that in response to staff queries on their censorship policy, Stan Pavlovsky the No.2 executive officer said the employees who are discontented are free to go with their own choices, “and employees have a lot of opportunities to work here, to work elsewhere, and we are very supportive when employees do not feel that this is the right place for them, to pursue other opportunities.”
It was back dated to September 2019 when the photo service started to put on its blacklist some keywords deemed forbidden by the Chinese regime. It applies naturally only to searchers with China IP address. Those keywords include “President Xi,” “Chairman Mao,” “Taiwan flag,” “dictator,” “yellow umbrella,” or “Chinese flag” and their variations.
The order was initially met with hesitation and concern from the company’s employees with some expressing worries about “setting a precedent for censorship.”
“Yes, we’re a creative photo and video marketplace, but we are also an editorial news hub,” told one Shutterstock employee to The Intercept. “Want to write a story about the protests in Hong Kong? They never existed. Want to write about Taiwan? It never existed. Xi Jinping is NOT a dictator because he specifically said so.”
Despite the petition against the search blacklist signed by nearly 20 percent of the company’s staff accusing Shutterstock of giving in to the authoritarian regime for lucrative interests, their plan was still eventually put in place.
Facing pressure from staffers, the senior executive indicated it is the enterprise’s culture that employees are supposed to follow the supervisors’ requests after open discussion even though they might find them at odds.
Replying to The Intercept’s email, the service provider’s spokesman reasoned that its mission is to empower creativity and storytellers around the globe, and its operation is bound to local law.
A staffer also told The Intercept the majority of staff do not consent to the excuse set out by the management but they don’t dare speak out.
Yet three of them have decided to make their stance clear by resigning.
Founded in 2003, the firm set its foothold in the huge market China in 2014 through the Chinese social network ZCool Network Technology. The censorship request from China was conveyed to Shutterstock though ZCool.
The same situation has been seen in other rivals such as Adobe Stock and Getty Images that also chose to surrender to the dictatorship for its own benefit.