Weibo to ban gay, violent content from platform

Monday, 16 Apr, 2018

Xiao Tie said the homosexuality ban was a result of over-cautiousness in the absence of specific information from authorities on what kind of content should be censored.

Images of hearts and rainbows with slogans "I am a gay, not a pervert" flooded the streets of China as several people protested against popular online website Weibo for removing all such content from its platform which is deemed to be violent or promoting homosexuality.

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". "Thank you for your discussions and suggestions".

Regulators have been ratcheting up control over Chinese microblogs in recent months, ordering operators like Weibo to set up a mechanism to remove false information after criticizing it for allowing prohibited material to spread. Upon the site's announcement of the crackdown on its official administrator's account on Friday, users began commenting on and forwarding the news accompanied by the hashtag "I am gay", according to Reuters.

Many activists say they are concerned that Mr. Xi's tightening grip on the internet will dampen a thriving online culture that they say binds the gay community together.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997 and there is a growing awareness of LGBT issues in the country, with lively gay scenes springing up in big cities and gay pride parades beginning to emerge, China has no laws protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to gay people, the country's liberals who were enraged by the crackdown also made their voices heard.

Hua said a Weibo manager told him to stop posting while the "cleanup" was to take place. The posting was viewed almost 6.5 million times.

"Like China, which has developed so quickly in such a short time, sex education in the country is a work in progress", he said.

However, the Cybersecurity Law doesn't refer to LGBT issues.

Weibo's announcement triggered public outrage.

"The main objective of the marathon is to help everyone courageously come out of the closet", Chen said.

However, Weibo's swift reversal after facing public outcry may signal changing times.

Sina said the campaign is to ensure that the company is in line with online content regulations released in June past year that lump homosexuality in with sexual abuse and violence as constituting "abnormal sexual relationships".