Queer Cultures in Digital Asia| Participatory Censorship and Digital Queer Fandom: The Commercialization of Boys’ Love Culture in China
This article investigates the role of fans as content regulators in what we call the China model of Internet censorship. Expanding on Jenkins’ participatory culture, we construct a framework of participatory censorship by focusing on how fans use the report function on social media platforms. We define “participatory censorship” as a type of decentralized censorship and content moderation facilitated by platform design and adopted by wider cyber groups and individuals. Based on discourse analysis, participatory observation, and digital ethnography, this article explores the boys’ love (BL) fandom of the Web series Guardian in 2018. We explore how participatory censoring via jubao (reporting) creates micro rules and draws the parameters of the discourses that try to limit queer expressions of gender, sexuality, and relationships to achieve a more commercially successful fandom. We also investigate how other fans respond to participatory censorship by generating collective actions. Ultimately, this article connects queer fandom and censorship studies to relocate the queerness of BL fandom in not only experimenting with cultural texts but also creative responses to decentralized censorship.