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article imageChina's Weibo backtracks on gay content ban

By Becky Davis (AFP)     Apr 16, 2018 in Internet

China's popular Weibo microblogging platform on Monday reversed a decision to block "homosexual" content, in an unusual concession to a storm of online protest at the weekend.

Sina Weibo said in a statement Friday it had begun a three-month-long "clean-up campaign" to remove "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality".

But the Twitter-like platform backtracked on Monday, stating on its administrators' official account: "This clean-up of games and manga is no longer directed at homosexual content, but is primarily to clean up pornographic and bloody, violent content."

It also thanked the public for "discussions and suggestions".

Weibo's decision on gay content prompted a tide of protest from outraged users who rallied behind the hashtag "#IamGay", viewed some 240 million times before it was banned by the platform Saturday.

Monday's reversal was met with an outpouring of support.

"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.

"Through everyone's unrelenting efforts, we finally got a basic right -- how rare!" wrote another.

A third said: "Although I still don't like you, I thank you."

Gay Voices, which has since 2009 been one of Weibo's major LGBT accounts with some 230,000 followers, had on Friday declared it would be forced to indefinitely suspend its postings.

On Monday it was back online and thanking supporters, saying: "Only by speaking up can we affect change."

Weibo's purge was the latest move in a crackdown by the ruling Communist Party to clear the Chinese internet of any content deviating from its "core values โ€‹โ€‹of socialism" while stifling criticism of social norms and established policies.

The platform -- which has some 400 million active monthly users -- said in its original Friday statement that it was merely implementing China's new cybersecurity law and had already removed some 56,240 items.

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