China's Weibo site back­tracks on gay cen­sor­ship af­ter out­cry

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! - was flooded over the week­end with the hash­tags "#I'mGay" and "#I'mGayNo­taPervert" af­ter the Twit­ter-like plat­form said that car­toons and short videos with porno­graphic, vi­o­lent or gay sub­ject mat­ter would be in­ves­ti­gated over a three­month pe­riod.

The mi­croblog­ging site, which saw its Nas­daq shares fall on Fri­day, said in its amended post: "This clean-up of games and car­toons will no longer tar­get gay con­tent." A com­pany spokesman re­fused to clar­ify how the plat­form would treat short videos with gay con­tent.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will in­stead "pri­mar­ily fo­cus on porno­graphic and vi­o­lent ma­te­rial," Weibo's state­ment said. "Thank you every­one for your dis­cus­sions and sug­ges­tions."

The com­pany pre­vi­ously said that it was act­ing in ac­cor­dance with China's cy­ber­se­cu­rity laws. The Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China, the coun­try's in­ter­net reg­u­la­tor, did not im­me­di­ately com­ment.

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. It was the lat­est of new mea­sures im­posed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping's gov­ern­ment to tighten con­trol over what China's pub­lic can see and say on­line while still try­ing to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of in­ter­net use.

While ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is not il­le­gal in China and few Chi­nese have re­li­gious ob­jec­tions to it, a tra­di­tional, con­ser­va­tive pref­er­ence for con­ven­tional mar­riage and child­bear­ing cre­ates bar­ri­ers for LGBT peo­ple.

Fol­low­ing Weibo's ini­tial an­nounce­ment Fri­day, more than a mil­lion users have viewed hash­tags in sup­port of LGBT rights, with many shar­ing their own ex­pe­ri­ences as an LGBT per­son or a par­ent of one.

Hua Zile, the founder of "Voice for China LGBT," Weibo's first LGBT-themed ac­count, said he was en­cour­aged by the out­rage against the site's cen­sor­ship plan.

"The re­sponse shows that we LGBT peo­ple in China are slowly re­al­iz­ing our rights," Hua said. "Gay peo­ple who would not have spo­ken out years ago are now let­ting their voices be heard."

Hua said a Weibo man­ager told him to stop post­ing while the "cleanup" was to take place. He com­plied, and his an­nounce­ment that Voice for China LGBT would be go­ing on hia­tus was shared nearly 40,000 times.

Now that Weibo has ad­mit­ted its mis­take, Hua said, it should apol­o­gize to the LGBT com­mu­nity.

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

On Sun­day, an LGBT group led more than 100 peo­ple in join­ing a large marathon in the city of Nan­jing, hold­ing rain­bow flags to raise aware­ness of LGBT is­sues. The group had planned to take part the marathon months in ad­vance, but its or­ga­nizer, Lu­cas Chen, said Weibo's an­nounce­ment gave it "added sig­nif­i­cance."

The main ob­jec­tive of join­ing the marathon was to "help every­one coura­geously come out of the closet," Chen said. "So it was mean­ing­ful that peo­ple on­line were also bravely speak­ing out and show­ing that they were not de­feated by neg­a­tiv­ity."

Bing EIJING -- One of China's top so­cial net­work sites an­nounced Mon­day that it will no longer be cen­sor­ing con­tent re­lated to gay is­sues af­ter the plan trig­gered a loud pub­lic out­cry.


In this April 15, 2018 photo re­leased by Jiangsu Tong­tian Vol­un­teer Group, an LGBT group led more than 100 peo­ple in join­ing a large marathon in the city of Nan­jing, hold rain­bow flags to raise aware­ness of LGBT is­sues. The group had planned to take part in the marathon months in ad­vance.

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