Weibo bans gay content as part of 'clean-up'

Weibo says the three-month campaign will target ‘illegal’ gay and violent content

NETIZENS in China have put an abrupt stop to social media site Sina Weibo's plans to ban all material relating to gay culture in what they called a 3-month "clean-up" effort.

China has a notorious history with censorship - generally as it involves sex, violence and the portrayal of China itself - but its record on homosexual-themed content and LGBT matters has been mixed.

The latest controversy came after Weibosaid (link in Chinese) Friday evening that it would for the next three months clear cartoons, games and videos, including those that have gay themes or are violent or pornographic, citing "laws and regulations".

The official Sina Weibo account states that the new guidelines were implemented to "fulfill corporate responsibility" and to "create a bright and harmonious community environment". Many users included hashtags such as #Iamgay or #Iamgaynotapervert in their posts.

Another wrote: "I am gay and I'm proud, even if I get taken down there are tens of millions like me". At the end of the article, he made his Weibo account public, and chose to come out as gay despite long fears of discrimination. Numerous dissenting posts complaining about the ban were themselves blocked by Weibo.

Much of China's LGBT community has been forced underground.

The move has gone down well with the Internet users who started holding an online protest with hashtag #I am gay which was used 170,000 times before the Weibo ultimately banned it.

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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 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 site attempted to crack down on the protest by deleting posts and censoring words such as "gay".

The Cybersecurity Law doesn't mention LGBT issues, and the Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2001 removed homosexuality and bisexuality from their list of illnesses.

Just last week the site's owners revealed it would be banning all content - including photos and videos - that were "related to homosexuality".

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.

The official People's Daily in a Saturday opinion piece published on Weibo (link in Chinese) said that "it is common sense to respect people's sexual orientation" and that "being gay is not a mental disease". "Gay people who would not have spoken out years ago are now letting their voices be heard".

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