'I Am Gay' Goes Viral After Chinese Site Weibo Censors LGBT Content

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On Friday, Sina Weibo - a microblogging platform with almost 400 million active users, often described as China's Twitter - announced a "clean-up campaign" that would be removing "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence, or (related to) homosexuality".

The hashtag "I am gay" was viewed almost 300 million times on Weibo before being censored on Saturday.

Users of China's Sina Weibo, a microblogging site in the vein of Twitter are fighting back against the site's announcement that it will begin a three-month "cleanup" to remove/censor LGBT and violent content.

Weibo initially attempted to tamp down the protests by deleting the posts, but by late Monday it had made the decision to reverse course, saying that gay-themed content would no longer be targeted by the "clean-up" effort.

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The announcement provoked a flood of reaction from stunned or outraged Chinese Internet users, with protesters rallying behind the hashtag "I am gay". The posting was viewed almost 6.5 million times.

The official Sina Weibo account states that the new guidelines were implemented to "fulfill corporate responsibility" and to "create a bright and harmonious community environment".

Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, boasts some 400 million active monthly users - roughly 25 percent more than Twitter itself. This means that gay content will now be banned on the site along with acts of violence, pornographic content, depictions of underage drinking/drug use, and more.

By around noon on Saturday, the hashtag #Iamgay had been used by roughly 170,000 people before being reportedly banned, according to Agence France-Presse. "I refuse to be discriminated and misunderstood".

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China only decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, but conservative attitudes remain widespread.

Activist and founder of the Feminist Voices blog Lu Pin said: 'China's gay community continues to push through obstacles.

"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.

China has also been tightening its censorship grip under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who has been advocating for a stronger promotion of socialist ideology in society and everyday life.

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As per the new cyber security laws in place China's government could pressurise the private entities to censor such content it deems to be inappropriate. It also requires the websites themselves to hire their own censors to monitor content on their pages. The site subsequently promised to increase censorship to some 10,000 people. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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