Chinese social network reverses gay content clean-up

One of China’s largest social networks has reversed a ban on “homosexual content” following a public outcry against associating homosexual content with pornography.

Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, launched new guidelines on Friday April 13 as part of a content “clean-up” in compliance with government censorship directives. The plans included removing images, videos and cartoons related to pornography, violence, or homosexuality, including popular sexual manga comic strips portraying gay relationships.

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The site’s community manager said the measures would create a “bright and harmonious environment” for users.

But critics of the ban including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Weibo users created hashtags such as #IamGayNotAPervert in protest against equating homosexuality with violent content. Some LGBT advocates urged shareholders in Sina, Weibo’s parent company, to abandon their shares in the company (South China Morning Post).

Sina Weibo, whose American stock exchange Nasdaq share value plummeted on April 13 following the initial announcement, amended the new guidelines three days later . It said that “this cleanup of games and cartoons will no longer target homosexual content” (The New York Times).

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While homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997, the cultural emphasis on traditional family life means that the country’s leaders and society are socially conservative. In 2016, the government banned all depictions of gay people on television as part of a cultural crackdown on “vulgar immoral and unhealthy content.”

There has so far been no official government reaction either to Sina Weibo’s initial ban, or the subsequent decision to reverse it.

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