After Outcry, Weibo Does U-Turn on Gay Content Ban

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

China has banned homosexual content on social media platform Weibo and users are not taking it lying down.

It said: "The clean-up is no longer targeted at homosexual content, and is mainly to clean up the subjects related to pornography and violence".

The ban on gay content is considered by many as yet another sign of stigmatization against LGBT people in China, more than a decade after the country removed homosexuality from an official list of mental illness.

By Monday, Sina Weibo had backed down and reversed the decision, saying that its clean-up campaign would no longer include gay content and would only focus on pornographic and violent material.

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. Many gay people posted their photos with the hashtag, and sometimes with rainbow emojis.

The fight against Weibo's decision saw LGBTQI+ groups, advocates and gay Chinese speaking out through letters and hashtags. At the end of the article, he made his Weibo account public, and chose to come out as gay despite long fears of discrimination. In the post, the author wondered why China, as the world's second-largest economy, "can't be inclusive of two sexualities".

The original notice, posted on Weibo's official administrator account Friday, has been shared more than 160,000 times, as of early Monday.

The affair has highlighted the cultural gap between younger Chinese more open to LGBT issues and "China's older generation - mostly very conservative 40-year-old men - who are now the main force of our society because they control the resources", Xiao Tie, director of the Beijing LGBT Center, told AFP, using a nickname.

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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.

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

Weibo's censorship of homosexual content rallied netizens behind #IAmGay rally, which garnered 130 million views.

There are about 70M LGBT people on the Chinese mainland.

The ruling Communist Party aims to purge the internet of any content deviating from its "core values of socialism", with the micro-blogging site moving to block such "illegal content" over the course of three months. He said Weibo's response showed a gradual change in attitudes toward gay people.

"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.

"Seven years ago, not that many people were willing to make their voices heard this way", he added.

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