Chinese Social Media Site Reverses Gay Content Ban After Uproar

Chinese flag with rainbow flag

More than 56,000 posts had been removed by the end of Friday, but the South China Morning Post reported that the #ImGay hashtag had also been viewed nearly 300 million times before it was censored.

The microblogging site, which saw its Nasdaq shares fall on Friday, said in its amended post: "This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target gay content". Numerous dissenting posts complaining about the ban were themselves blocked by Weibo.

China's version of Twitter, Weibo, has reversed a ban on gay content after an outcry accused the company of smearing homosexuality by lumping it with pornography as it tried to meet government censorship rules. Over the weekend, millions showed their support for China's gay community, using the five-character Chinese-language hashtag phrase "wo shi tongxinglian" ("I am gay").

"They targeted the entire LGBT community in that notice", Xiaogang Wei, a leading LGBT rights advocate in China, told CNN.

The initiative, announced Friday, prompted widespread criticism from internet users who used the hashtags #iamgay and #iamgaynotapervert to highlight their disdain and bombard the social network with photos of gay couples and rainbow emojis.

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

In one post that was liked some 60,000 times, a woman in Shanghai wrote: "I am the mother of a gay son".

"There can be no homosexuality under socialism?" The same hashtag was also viewed almost 300 million times, Reuters reported.

Many activists had harsh words for Sina Weibo, saying that its attempts to limit free speech had gone too far and that gay people were being punished because their culture was considered out of the mainstream.

One user wrote "We comment on the Internet, everywhere, against the announcement. What can we do?" Authorities have issued bans on the portrayal of same-sex relationships on television and online series, and China's official textbooks contain homophobic content.

LGBT groups spoke out over the plans to group gay-related content with that of a violent or pornographic nature, which Sina Weibo said was being done in response to new cyber-security laws. These procedures occurred in some public, government-run hospitals and in private clinics, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

The People's Daily, the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, also appeared to criticize Weibo in a Sunday editorial. Caixin reported Monday that the service said it will not target homosexual topics during its "content clearance" bid. "It's unbelievable to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

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