Weibo, China's Twitter, Backtracks on Censorship of Gay Content After Online Outcry


Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo reversed its decision to delete content related to gay themes following intense public backlash.

The main targets initially included pornographic, violent and gay-themed cartoons, pictures, videos and articles, as well as content such as "slash, gay, boys love and gay fictional stories", a notice posted by Sina Weibo's administration account said.

Wikimedia Commons/Ludovic BertronIn response to Weibo's move to ban content it deems to be "homosexual", users in China posted photos with their partners, and rainbow emojis over the past weekend.

Originally announced on Friday, the "clean-up" operation was due to last three months, and covered violence and pornography as well as homosexual content. The declared reasons were complying with Internet Security Laws and the pursuit of a "bright and harmonious" environment, What's on Weibo first reported.

At the time of Friday's announcement, the site had already removed more than 56,000 pieces of content, closed 108 accounts and taken down 62 topics, the online statement said. Since Friday people had been protesting by using hashtags like #Iamgaynotapervert.

"We are all gay tonight", read a post from the Beijing LGBT Center, featuring photographs of young men and women.

Despite ham-fisted attempts to censor the LGBT community online, China is fast becoming the centre of the gay hook-up world.

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A magazine called The Gay Voice announced it would suspend publication within six hours on Weibo, declaring the crackdown underway.

China's LGBT community and their allies responded immediately to the announcement with hashtag campaigns, with the declaration #我是同性恋# (I am gay) reaching almost 300 million views before it was blocked on Saturday.

"I feel totally surprised and touched", Hua Zile, founder of the Weibo page as well as the NGO that bears the same time, told CNN on Monday. "So it's useful to protest, even though there's no apology", commented one user on the site. The move came as China attempted to ban gay content from the internet. "It's wonderful to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

Weibo said last week it would investigate cartoons and short videos with "pornographic, violent or gay subject matter".

According to LGBT advocates, the outcry reflects a fear that growing censorship tends to ban all gay content as "dirty", a setback for efforts to carve out an online space of tolerance for homosexuality in China's traditionally Confucian society.

Micro-blogging website Weibo has begun a clampdown on content it broadly sees as offensive. "But today I saw the announcement by Sina a source of news, it is discriminating and attacking minorities, and this is violence!"