China's Sina Weibo reverses ban on 'homosexual' content

Nellie Chapman
April 16, 2018

Users of China's Sina Weibo, a microblogging site in the vein of Twitter are fighting back against the site's announcement that it will begin a three-month "cleanup" to remove/censor LGBT and violent content.

After being inundated with complaints, Sina Weibo said on Monday that its ban will no longer include gay content.

Images of hearts and rainbows with slogans "I am a gay, not a pervert" flooded the streets of China as several people protested against popular online website Weibo for removing all such content from its platform which is deemed to be violent or promoting homosexuality.

"The clean-up campaign will not target homosexual content, as it is meant to focus on cleaning up pornographic and violent content", the site said in an official post on Monday. The company said the initiative was an effort to "create a sunny and harmonious community environment", in compliance with Beijing's cybersecurity laws. The move sparked so much public backlash that Sina Weibo reversed its decision Monday, according to a statement posted online.

"I am gay and I'm proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me!" wrote one user who went by the handle "rou wan xiong xiong xiong xiong". While the marathon was planned months in advance, the organizer, Lucas Chen, said Weibo's announcement gave it "added significance". In the post, the author wondered why China, as the world's second-largest economy, "can't be inclusive of two sexualities". Numerous dissenting posts complaining about the ban were themselves blocked by Weibo. "I was surprised that the rule turned out to be very abrupt, and many from the LGBT circle have immediately taken action to work on solutions", said Martin Yang, director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) China AIDS Walk.

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"I support Sina in clearing out pornographic content, but it definitely must not do so as before and target homosexuality - that kind of discrimination is wrong", wrote one user.

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

"The response shows that we LGBT people in China are slowly realizing our rights", Hua said.

Gay conversion therapy is still used in some public hospitals and private clinics. Hundreds of people participated in a pride run event in Nanjing on Saturday (April 14), a day after Weibo's announcement of the ban-a public display of activism that is becoming nearly extinct in China.

"The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn", Xiao said on Sunday, adding that she believes the government is not actively anti-gay, just that it has no clear idea how to deal with the issue. "It's awesome to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

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