China’s largest social media, Sina Weibo, removed LGBTI content in the last few days.
A page dedicated named ‘les’ and dedicated to lesbian users disappeared on Sunday (14 April).
It had 143,000 members and 540 million engagements. A lesbian group, meanwhile, is no longer accepting new members.
It comes almost exactly a year since Weibo first cracked down on LGBTI content.
Weibo in April last year backed down on its LGBTI content ban after a viral social media campaign.
It tried to clear up its LGBTI content in line with a government ruling that homosexual content was ‘abnormal’.
Weibo users on Monday were speculating if a similar government announcement last week was related to the latest apparent crackdown.
The Cyberspace Administration of China on 10 April announced an 8-month crackdown on pornography.
It said any ‘content that violates correct marriage and family ethics’ should be removed.
Users this week also noted that they could no longer include a rainbow flag in their user name.
As with last April, LGBTI users and allies hit back against the apparent crackdown.
The hashtag ‘I am les’ had more than 26 million engagements as of Monday morning.
Yanzi Peng of LGBT Rights Advocacy Group China said censorship was part of everyday life for LGBTI Chinese.
He labeled Weibo’s recent crackdown as absolute discrimination. ‘Censorship brings harm to everyone in China’ he said.
‘Media censorship blocks representation and shaping public positive public attitudes towards LGBT people’ he argued.
He also urged China to introduce anti-discrimination laws in line with its promises to the UN.
China legalized gay sex in 1997 and removed it from the list of mental illnesses in 2001.
But, in a conservative and family-orientated society, many LGBTI Chinese live in the closet. Same-sex marriage is also illegal.
China’s Netcasting Service Association (CNSA) officially banned LGBT content from China’s internet in June 2017.
CNSA labeled homosexuality ‘abnormal sexual behavior’.
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Author: Rik Glauert