China's Weibo backtracks on 'homosexual content' ban

LGBT community fumes as Weibo, China's version of Twitter, decides to ban gay content

Chinese microblogging platform Weibo to remove content related to homosexuality and violence

The Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo, which announced Friday that it would censor "images, videos, text, and cartoons that were related to pornography, violence, or homosexuality", has reversed its decision amid an outline outcry that sparked the hashtag "I am gay", according to the BBC.

To comply with China's new cybersecurity law, the Twitter-like micro-blogging service said that they will launch a three-month "clean-up" campaign to filter comics, games, and related short videos and picture/text posts that involve pornography, violence or homosexuality.

Weibo initially attempted to tamp down the protests by deleting the posts, but by late Monday it had made the decision to reverse course, saying that gay-themed content would no longer be targeted by the "clean-up" effort.

China's answer to Twitter, Sina Weibo, today (April 16) withdrew its short-lived ban on homosexual content, after people came out as gay to protest the ban.

It was unclear whether Sina's move was a direct result of a censorship directive from the government or an initiative taken by the company itself.

Even the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily jumped into the discussion, posting an essay promoting LGBT acceptance to its official Weibo account on Saturday. There are about 70M LGBT people on the Chinese mainland.

"The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn", Beijing LGBT Center Executive Director Xiao Tie told Reuters, noting that officials are probably ill-informed more than ill-intentioned. Just that it has no clear idea how to deal with the issue.

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"But the bigger problem is the culture of strict censorship", she added. Gay-themed content has been barred from television in the country for years, and a controversial set of guidelines introduced last year introduced a similar ban in the online streaming space.

The three-month clearance campaign was meant to "further make a clean and harmonious community environment" based on "laws and regulations, such as the Cyber Security Law", Weibo had said.

The hashtag "I am gay" was viewed almost 300 million times on Weibo before being censored on Saturday.

Beijing-based advocacy group PFLAG China on Sunday called on Sina's shareholders to punish the "evil" acts of the NASDAQ-listed company by "voting with their feet" and selling shares.

One of the writers, Hao Kegui, came out as a lesbian in an open letter published on social media past year where she described how she had felt pressured into marrying a man to please her parents.

Although China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and the Chinese Psychiatric Society removed "homosexuality" from its Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001, the country remains intolerant toward same-sex relationships.

"I worry the censorship will cause more people to just live in the closet and never come out".

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