On Friday, the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, banned all content containing homosexuality from its platform. But after a weekend full of online protests, Weibo has reversed his decision, clarifying that he is no longer targeting gay content.
Weibo wrote in a publication on Monday: "This time, the cleaning of the anime and the games will not go to gay content, mainly [meant] is to clean up content related to pornography, violence and spilled blood. and suggestions ", translated by WhatsonWeibo.
The original Weibo announcement on Friday said the platform would launch a cleanup campaign for the next three months and would remove all pornographic, violent or homosexual photos, videos, text publications and cartoons. Weibo said the move came about because it had to comply with China's cybersecurity standard of 2017 for stricter data monitoring. He said he had already removed more than 50,000 pieces of content for Friday.
It was not clear if Weibo's decision to ban homosexual content was his own or if he was simply complying with government requests. Similarly, other platforms have had to clean up, including the news application Jinri Toutiao, which has stopped momentarily while the owners of the company remove the vulgar content of the platform, and the Neihan Duanzi parody application, which closed completely.
The announcement of Weibo on Friday, however, focused specifically on gay content, although banning such content is something that China has seen before. Last summer, a government-affiliated group called China Netcasting Services Association began requiring two auditors for each piece of online audiovisual content to verify whether the sites adhered to "core socialist values," which included a rejection of homosexual content. Last month, the Beijing International Film Festival eliminated the Oscar-winning movie Call me By Your Name, which deals with a summer gay romance that takes place in Italy in the eighties.
What is unique in this case of censorship is that the online protests appear to have had an impact on Weibo's policies. Users shared and commented hundreds of thousands of times in protest of the announcement, with the hashtag (translated from Mandarin) #IAmGay or #ScumbagSinaHelloIAmGay.
Damn, the Chinese Weibo has just banned all content related to homosexuality, and very specifically targeting yaoi and fiction comics. Never stop creating, it is never too small an act to make art. ✊️✊️✊️- The New Yaoker (@yaoxiaoart) April 14, 2018
There were indications of the government's official position on the issue, which seemed to lean towards public opinion. The League of Communist Youth responded to Weibo's initial ban by saying: "Being gay is not a mess." People's Daily, a state media outlet, wrote that tolerance should be shown towards homosexual people, but vulgar content should be eliminated regardless of people's sexual orientations, as discovered by the South China Morning Post.
On Monday, the protesters were victorious when Weibo apologized. The Weibo account @LGBT said it was a step forward in showing "respect for people who are different."
Still, there are limits to what online protests can do. A similar outburst of social media activity in February over the removal of the limits of the mandate of Chinese President Xi Jinping had no impact whatsoever, and the regulators responded with additional censorship.
We have approached Weibo to make comments.