Weibo, China's Twitter, Backtracks on Censorship of Gay Content After Online Outcry

Weibo says the three-month campaign will target ‘illegal’ gay and violent content

After being inundated with complaints, Sina Weibo said on Monday that its ban will no longer include gay content. The declared reasons were complying with Internet Security Laws and the pursuit of a "bright and harmonious" environment, What's on Weibo first reported.

Much of the homosexual content on Weibo is fuelled not by LGBT activists, who are quite low-profile, but by the large online community of "funu" ("rotten girls") - heterosexual women who are avid fans of male gay romances and share comics or stories, frequently erotic.

In the past few days, a blog post (link in Chinese) with the title translated as "HelloSina scum, I am gay" went viral on social-networking app WeChat, even though the original post and its reposts have been deleted numerous times.

Many gay people posted their photos with the hashtag, and sometimes with rainbow emojis.

'But today I suddenly [find] that in this strong country, Sina Weibo is discriminating against and attacking this sexual minority'.

The post stated that the site would be launching a three-month cleanup targeting "illegal" content, including images, cartoons and videos associated with homosexuality, pornography and violence.

"Thank you everyone for the discussion and your suggestions", it said in a statement on its microblog account.

China had decriminalized homosexuality way back in 1997 and declassified it as a mental illness in 2001 but the government authorities are still curbing the practice of the same in many ways.

Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, had said on Friday that it meant to keep the site clear of postings containing homosexual content.

Last month it pulled the Oscar-winning film "Call Me by Your Name" from the ongoing Beijing International Film Festival. Gay-themed content has been barred from television in the country for years, and a controversial set of guidelines introduced last year introduced a similar ban in the online streaming space. Barry Jenkin's gay-themed Oscar Moonlight was similarly allowed to stream previous year on iQiyi, a local Netflix-like platform.

"I support Sina in clearing out pornographic content, but it definitely must not do so as before and target homosexuality - that kind of discrimination is wrong", wrote one user.

"I feel totally surprised and touched", Hua Zile, the page's founder told CNN on Monday in response to the rule reversal. "Gay people who would not have spoken out years ago are now letting their voices be heard". "It's fantastic to see this happen now, with everyone - straight or gay, celebrities or ordinary people - using the hashtag and joining in".

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