One of China's biggest social media platforms just reversed a decision to ban gay content

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesA group poses for photos after taking part in the Pride Run in Shanghai on June 17, 2017. The run was part of Shanghai’s ninth annual gay-pride festival.
  • Sina Weibo on Monday reversed its decision to censor gay content posted by users.
  • The social media site, which is similar to Twitter, was planning a “clean up” targeting portrayals of homosexuality.
  • The initial announcement received led to an uproar, which even strictly controlled state media weighed in on.

Sina Weibo, one of China’s biggest social media platforms, has reversed a controversial decision to purge its platform of content.

The microblogging platform, Weibo for short, had announced a three-month “clean-up” targeting videos and images categorised as violence, pornography, and homosexuality.

They said the purge would “create a bright and harmonious community environment.”

The inclusion of homosexuality in the announcement, made on Friday, led to an uproar. The official announcement was quickly shared more than 95,000 times, and tens of thousands of comments on the post were censored. The hashtag #Iamgaynotapervert quickly gained traction and was reportedly viewed more than 1.35 million times.

On Monday, company reversed its position.

A new announcement, translated by What’s On Weibo, said: “This time, the cleanup of anime and games won’t target gay content. It is mainly [meant] to clean up content related to pornography, violence, and gore. Thank you for your discussions and suggestions,”

Even China’s strictly controlled state-run media, which tends to downplay or ignore human rights and censorship issues, reported on the outrage. Global Times said the decision had “triggered controversy” and expressly noted the tens of thousands of reposts and comments the original announcement had received.

Censorship on China’s biggest tech platforms is nothing new.

Just last week Beijing targeted the company behind Toutiao, the country’s largest news aggregation app. The company was accused of hosting “improper content” and was forced to close one app and suspend another from app stores for three weeks, to create a “clean audiovisual environment” on the internet.

In an open letter, the company’s CEO apologised for “going against socialist values” and promised to increase the number of censors on its payroll to 10,000.

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