As more and more social media companies finding themselves bending the knee in regards to censorship, Japanese internet art community Pixiv has found themselves caught in the cross-hairs of the ongoing conflict.

Marvel Loki Ashiya Art

Source: Marvel’s Loki in an illustration by Kohei Ashiya via Pixiv Fanbox

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On November 15th, the popular image sharing site – which is frequented by both fan and professional artists such as Rent-a-Girlfriend mangaka Reiji Miyajima and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure animator Kohei Ashiya – announced that they would be updating their Terms of Service following content complaints from “international credit card” companies.

Morbius Ashiya

Marvel’s Morbius Illustration by Kohei Ashiya via Pixiv Fanbox

According to a press release provided by the site’s administration, these complaints centered around apparent violations of Article 14, Item 26 of the site’s current terms of service agreement, which prohibits “the act of using this service to display, sell, purchase, register, or otherwise conduct transactions for” a variety of illegal content including narcotics, weapons, and materials depicting the abuse of real-life children.

DC Harley Quinn Ashiya

DC’s Harley Quinn in an Illustration by Kohei Ashiya via Pixiv Fanbox

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Pixiv then explained that starting December 15th, in order to comply with the “terms and conditions of international card brands”, the site would begin prohibiting any “content or products” – fictional artwork or otherwise – depicting “child pornography or child abuse, incest, bestiality, rape (sexual acts without consent), illegal mutilation of the person or body, and other acts that are offensive to public order and morals.”

Marvel Dr Strange Ashiya

Marvel’s Dr. Strange and Scarlet Witch in an illustration by Kohei Ashiya via Pixiv Fanbox

“We ask all users to check the BOOTH, pixivFANBOX, and pixivRequest functions for the terms of service and whether any of the above items are being handled, and to take action to withdraw or close the items to the public,” the site concluded.

As per a November 17th report from Japanese publication Bunshun, the specific event which prompted this change was the discovery that dealers of “illegal pornographic videos and images of children and images of real dead bodies” were using Pixiv as a front to “sell content on illegal porn sites and irl necrophilia websites, mainly Chinese.”

DC Joker Ashiya

DC’s the Joker in an illustration by Kohei Ashiya via Pixiv Fanbox

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Offering their own findings on the situation, Twitter user @Kama_iruka explained that said Chinese black market profiteers had been “selling real child pornography and snuff images mixed in with a large amount of AI-illustrations”.

“I’ve heard of people who are selling real child pornography in a few minutes of video that is hundreds of minutes long,” they added.

Kama Tweet 3

Source: @Kama_iruka Twitter

“When I was searching through the new arrivals of those tags [ostensibly the ones associated with the aforementioned Chinese black market accounts], I saw a lot of posts with images that look like real illicit pornography and directing people to suspicious apps and Discord URLs,” @Kama_iruka further recalled. “Scary!”

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Source: @Kama_iruka Twitter

While the prohibition and prevention of such listed real world materials is objectively a noble goal, the vagueness in Pixiv’s method of enforcing their new terms, as well as the subjective nature of their deference to seemingly Western-oriented “public order and morals”, has many artists worried about the future of not just the platform, but Japanese art as a whole.

Ashiya art

Marvel’s Iron Man in an illustration by Kohei Ashiya via pixiv fanbox

After all, in an atmosphere where merely drawing a woman in an anime-esque art style is enough to draw waves of accusations of pedophilia from terminally online crusaders, how could an artist feel free to truly express themselves?

Ultimately, how this all plays out – and whether or not the Japanese artists who rely on the platform for both exposure and profit – remains to be seen.

DC Superman Ashiya Art

DC’s Superman in an illustration by Kohei Ashiya via pixiv fanbox

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