Chinese social media platform Weibo bans then un-bans LGBT content

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Last Friday, Chinese social media company, Sina Weibo, announced that it would be completing a three-month cleanup of its online platform targeting violent and sexually graphic content.

Instead, this expurgate targeted all lesbian and gay-themed content, including those with pornographic and violent material.

Weibo, a , the Chinese version of Twitter, is currently one of most popular social media sites in mainland China with more than 40 million active users.  Facebook and Twitter are banned there. Throughout the weekend, users unleashed a bombardment of protest via the app, using hashtags like #IAmGay and #ScumbagSinaHelloIAmGay, (translated).

On Monday, Weibo announced its decision to remove the ban on gay material. Whats On Weibo, a news agency reporting on social trends in China, translated Weibo’s statement: “This time, the cleanup of anime and games won’t target gay content. It is mainly [meant] to clean up content related to pornography, violence, and gore. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions.”

Weibo’s drastic changes follows the Chinese Cybersecurity Law made effective on June 1, 2017. The law demands an overall revision to the safety and storing of data, as well as permitted usage of the Internet. This includes a provision for government drop-ins on company networks.

The China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) put forth additional regulations on June 30, 2017, detailing a government ban on video content and streaming that displays ‘abnormal sexual behavior’. CNSA placed homosexuality in this category, alongside incest and sexual violence.

According to Whats on Weibo, the ban includes anything that “damages the image of the country” and “endangers unity and social stability.”

Weibo was founded on the proclamation that it would screen its users’ posts for sensitive content amid the 2009 government upheaval of social media platforms. Despite Weibo’s efforts to comply with regulations, the company was relatively quick to reverse its ban on gay content in response to backlash. China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but the battle for rights continues.

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Gabrielle Lenhard is a Brooklyn based freelance writer and video artist, creating as Rude Ink.

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