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China's Sina Weibo Reverses Ban on Gay Content After User Uproar

China's Sina Weibo Reverses Ban on Gay Content After User Uproar

It said that for the next three months, the platform would remove content including images, videos, text and cartoons that were related to pornography, violence, or homosexuality.

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.

By Monday, Sina Weibo had backed down and reversed the decision, saying that its clean-up campaign would no longer include gay content and would only focus on pornographic and violent material.

It claimed the new rules were needed in order to "comply with the requirements of laws and regulations [and] fulfil the responsibilities of the company", as well as to build a "happy community" on the platform. This ushered a whirlwind of complaints online on Saturday, with posters posting under the hashtag "I am gay". Activists circulated slogans like, "My mouth can be muted, but my love can?t be", as per the New York Times. While some posts were censored, the hashtag that translates to #Iamgaynotapervert was viewed more than 1.35 million times. On Monday, Sina Weibo said it would reverse the ban.

Lu Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist and women's rights activist, said some brands and influential users had already begun boycotting microblogging site.

"Our whole group went ballistic", said Zhong Xinyue, 22, an intern at the Canton Rainbow Group, an advocacy organisation in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Weibo's announcement, however, provoked a flood of stunned and angry responses from Chinese users.

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"They targeted the entire LGBT community in that notice", Xiaogang Wei, a leading LGBT rights advocate in China, told CNN. Homosexual relations were included under the heading. Some textbooks still describe homosexuality as a psychological disorder, and gay characters are rarely shown in movies or on television.

"It's easy to aggravate the public's discrimination against sexual minorities", said Mr Ma, referring to Weibo's announcement. Hundreds of people participated in a pride run event in Nanjing on Saturday (April 14), a day after Weibo's announcement of the ban-a public display of activism that is becoming nearly extinct in China.

Weibo's move comes as China continues to tighten its control over the internet, punishing not only political offenses but also entertainment it deems unwholesome.

Numerous critical messages were later deleted.

On Sunday, more than 20,000 people marched in a "Rainbow Marathon" in Nanjing to raise awareness of LGBT issues.

One of its latest victims was Toutiao, one of China's most popular news aggregator apps, which was punished this week for allowing users to share ribald jokes or videos and has promised to increase its censorship staff to 10,000.