Weibo Reverses Brief Ban on LGBT Content

By Adam Robbins, April 16, 2018

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The Friday, April 13, announcement that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) content would be purged from Sina Weibo proved short-lived. By Monday, the Community Manger for China’s Twitter-equivalent posted a second announcement reversing that decision.

The initial post announced a three-month ‘clean-up’ targeting pornographic, ‘bloody violence’ and homosexual content for deletion. The declared reasons were complying with Internet Security Laws and the pursuit of a ‘bright and harmonious’ environment, What’s on Weibo first reported.

The initial announcement.

Starting Friday, Weibo users found a block on hashtags related to ‘slash’ fiction — fan’s depictions of steamy same-sex pairs like Thor/Loki or Sherlock/Watson. Content posted by established LGBT community organizations like PFLAG China, China AIDS Walk and the Beijing LGBT Center remained accessible during the initial days of the purge. But the community objected to the idea that all LGBT content could potentially be removed as vulgar. 

“The problem with the policy is that it equates LGBT content with porn,” Beijing LGBT Center Executive Director Xiao Tie told Reuters, noting that officials are probably ill-informed more than ill-intentioned. “But the bigger problem is the culture of strict censorship,” she added. “Social media used to be an open space, but in the last year things have started to change.” 

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 nearly 300 million views before it was blocked on Saturday. 

“We are all gay tonight,” read a post from the Beijing LGBT Center, featuring photographs of young men and women. The community continued to speak out with a hashtag that translates to #Iamgaynotapervert. Guangzhou-based PFLAG China challenged Sina shareholders to divest from the NASDAQ-listed company in response and prominent community leaders lobbied company officials.

By Sunday the Global Times weighed in, with an item encouraging tolerance toward LGBT people while drawing a line for "vulgar" content that must be removed.

On Monday afternoon, Sina Weibo issued the second announcement, declaring “This time, the cleanup of anime and games won’t target gay content,” according to a translation by What's on Weibo. “It is mainly [meant] to clean up content related to pornography, violence, and gore. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions.” 

As of this writing, #我是同性恋# remains blocked.

[Top image via torbakhopper/Flickr]

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