Bullet subtitles (danmu in Chinese) refers to viewer comments on video sharing sites, which zip across the screen like bullets. It has become a popular interactive method on Chinese multimedia platforms, especially among younger generations.
Though bullet subtitles are a relatively new feature in China, a growing number of websites have adopted them in recent years.
However, their surging popularity has also raised concerns about sensitive issues such as pornography, violence and their ability to disrupt national harmony.
As such, the Cyberspace Administration of China recently announced that it will be necessary to censor bullet subtitles.
This new policy has sparked heated online discussions about whether censorship should be imposed on bullet subtitles.
Some online users argue that individuals need a platform to freely express their emotions.
"The reason why bullet subtitles are popular is that it allows viewers to freely express their feelings and ideas," one Weibo blogger said. "Once users are required to be cautious of every word they use, this tends to take all the joy out of using bullet subtitles."
Back in 2014, my friend introduced me to niche video sharing website Bilibili.
A big difference between Bilibili and other Chinese video sharing websites was that Bilibili had the bullet subtitles function.
Every time I watched a video, I could see other viewers' comments zooming across my screen.
At first the subtitles distracted me from my movie, but I gradually became accustomed to them, and then started to actually enjoy reading the funny comments teasing and taunting the main characters or joking about the plot.
They also made me feel less lonely, like I was in a rowdy theater with other popcorn-throwing moviegoers.
But earlier this year, as bullet subtitles became a huge national fad, many netizens started exploiting the function to the point that sometimes they took up the entire screen.
For instance, while viewing the first episode of Japanese television drama My Dangerous Wife this August on website AcFun, I couldn't see any of the actors' faces because there were just so many bullet subtitles; I had to use the "block function" to totally shut down the feature.
Cases of uncivilized bullet commentary, such as trolling, are also increasing. When I watch television dramas, sometimes viewers attack the leading actors' skills or appearance just to irritate fans.
The bullet subtitles then turn into a flame war between the two sides and it seems nobody is watching the video anymore.
In public places, we are not allowed to just say or do anything we want that disturbs or disrespects others.
Likewise, online communities, which are also public spaces, should strive to ensure that the things we say are respectful and harmonious to each other and to society.
Pornographic and violent content appearing in bullet subtitles is also growing concern.
Online statistics show that the majority of users on video sharing platforms Bilibili and AcFun are between 10 and 29 years old; a large proportion of registered users are even elementary school students.
Purposely exposing our youngest generations of viewers to unhealthy and immoral content will adversely affect their values and mental health.
The words we say in public places should strictly comply with all our national and local regulations and laws.
Since bullet subtitles appear on public platforms and are visible to other viewers, subtitles that infringe upon our dignity, or contain harmful content, should be tightly regulated by the authority.
It is true that censorship on bullet commentaries will limit viewers' freedom of speech and expression, but the bigger problems that bullet subtitles have already brought to the online community make me feel that a certain level of censorship is necessary in order to restore harmony and return the feature to the fun, innocent chatter it once was.