China's Weibo backtracks on 'homosexual content' ban

Carla Harmon
April 16, 2018

On Friday, Sina Weibo - a microblogging platform with almost 400 million active users, often described as China's Twitter - announced a "clean-up campaign" that would be removing "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence, or (related to) homosexuality".

Many posted selfies with the words "I am gay not a pevert", followed by a chain of rainbow emoticons.

This is also a great problem for online content creators like comic artists, merch sellers, and filmmakers who largely market their gay content through social media like Weibo. 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.

Chinese authorities have embarked on a campaign in recent years aimed at purging internet content that it deems inappropriate. My son and I love our country.

But Weibo's crackdown backfired after tens of thousands of users protested against the LGBT ban under the hashtag "I am gay".

One user wrote "We comment on the Internet, everywhere, against the announcement".

Among them was LGBT rights activist Pu Chunmei, whose impassioned post accompanied with pictures of her with her gay son quickly went viral.

In an interview with CNN, Hua Zile, founder of a Weibo page focused on gay rights that was told it would be shut down, said he felt "totally surprised and touched" by the new announcement.

As of early Monday morning many such posts were still online, as censors appeared to struggle to keep up with the deluge.

The microblogging platform announced new censorship rules to tackle content "with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to homosexuality" on Friday.

The latest move to "clean-up" what is posted online in Weibo comes at a time when Facebook - the world's largest social media company - has been facing flak for leaking user data to private firms.

One commenter said that Weibo's actions were "simply discriminatory", adding: "Many mangas removed were not pornographic".

But Wei said that the official stance on gay rights is still "unclear".

Homosexuality was decriminalised more than two decades ago.

But in recent months, some began to fear that this presence was starting to be curtailed by conservative forces. While content with extreme violence has become prime target for the website, gay content too is taking a fall in a country which otherwise has not banned homosexuality.

Xiao believes the government is not actively anti-LGBT.

There was no official reaction from the Chinese government to Sina Weibo's initial ban, nor to the subsequent reversal.

Other reports by iNewsToday