Weibo's content ban is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to purge the internet of content it alleges deviates from socialism's "core values."
Read more: Hello, Big Brother: How China controls its citizens through social media
Uprising of outrage
- Weibo’s clampdown on gay content provoked an angry response from it users.
- Many of Weibo's 340 million users rallied under the hashtags "I am gay" and "I am gay not a pervert."
- The company then apparently banned the hashtags and related content.
- Weibo's Nasdaq shares plunged on Friday following the move.
Rainbow marathonA Weibo company statement issued on Monday read: "This clean-up of anime and games will no longer target gay content. It is mainly to clean up content related to pornography and violence. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions."
Many Weibo users shared their experiences as a gay person or a parent of one after the clampdown. Some 20,000 people marched in a "Rainbow Marathon" in the Chinese city of Nanjing on Sunday to raise awareness of LGBT issues. Although it had been planned months ago, organizers said the clampdown "added significance."
Read more: Marginalized and stigmatized: China's transgender sex workers
LGBT advocates said censorship tends to label all gay content as "dirty," a setback for efforts to carve out a tolerant online space.
Yanhui Peng, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, told DW: "We do not have enough space to express ourselves in daily life … The internet does not only provide a space for people from the LGBT community to express themselves, but also a very important means for the public to understand homosexuality."
Hua Zile, founder of Weibo's "Gay Voices" account, said he was encouraged by the outrage, while China's People's Daily newspaper slammed Weibo for going too far and called homosexuality and bisexuality "normal."
Read more: Chinese gay rights movement sees win in court loss
Changing attitudes:Although China decriminalized homosexuality two decades ago, a conservative preference for conventional marriage and childbearing creates barriers for gay people.
Government restrictions:The use of social media is highly regulated by Chinese authorities. Beijing has effectively blocked access to thousands of websites and platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Chinese users instead have local equivalents, such as Weibo and WeChat, which the government can monitor and which boast hundreds of millions of active users.
China's mixed record on gay culture:Last month, China pulled the Oscar-winning film "Call Me by Your Name" from the Beijing International Film Festival. However, Chinese theaters on Friday released "Seek McCartney," that has been hailed as the country's first gay movie. Read more: Taiwan court first in Asia to approve gay marriage
kw/msh (AP, dpa)
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