In a quick about face, China’s Sina Weibo messaging service has reversed a ban on gay-themed content. On Friday, the Twitter-like platform removed or blocked the content as part of a campaign to “purify” the online environment, the state-backed Global Times reported. But an outcry over the weekend appears to have changed Weibo’s stance. Caixin reported Monday that the service said it will not target homosexual topics during its “content clearance” bid.
The main targets initially included pornographic, violent and gay-themed cartoons, pictures, videos and articles, as well as content such as “slash, gay, boys love and gay fictional stories,” a notice posted by Sina Weibo’s administration account said.
Then over the weekend, the #IAmGay hashtag went viral, while the official People’s Daily in an opinion piece said, “It is common sense to respect people’s sexual orientation.”
The three-month clearance campaign was intended to “further make a clean and harmonious community environment” based on “laws and regulations, such as the Cyber Security Law,” Weibo had said.
China has a notorious history with censorship — generally as it involves sex, violence and the portrayal of China itself — but its record on homosexual-themed content and LGBT matters has been mixed. Late last month, Luca Guadagnino’s Oscar-winning romance, Call Me By Your Name, was pulled from the lineup of the Beijing Film Festival with no official reason given for the move.
Last year, the People’s Daily took pains to say local censors kept the “gay moment” in Disney’s Beauty And The Beast despite controversy in other markets.
Then in June, the official China Netcasting Services Association released a regulation banning online service providers from releasing programs that “present abnormal sexual relations or behavior.” Homosexual relations were included under the heading. There are about 70M LGBT people on the Chinese mainland.