Outcry as Gay, Violent, Vulgar Content Removed From China's Social Media
17 Apr 2018
Self-censorship is a tricky business and some platforms have already begun backpedaling after attempting last week to avoid punishment from the government over what content is allowed on their sites. Yesterday, for example, after a massive public outcry, Weibo partially reversed its decision to remove and ban some content; specifically those related to LGBT.
China’s Sina Weibo announced Friday that it would remove gay and violent content, including pictures, cartoons and text posts, during a three-month clean-up campaign. Although homosexuality is not illegal in China, multiple social media platforms began taking action in an attempt to comply with China’s new cyber security law that calls for strict data surveillance. More on that here.
Weibo cleared thousands of pieces of “illegal content” before being called out by the LGBT community and reversing its decision yesterday.
Online protest using the hashtag #IAmGay, which was posted over 500,000 times and viewed more than 530 million times, seem to have convinced Weibo to reconsider its recent announcement. Personal stories and photos flooded Weibo from users who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Weibo finally issued a statement Monday that the ban would no longer target LGBT-related content. They did; however, delete the #IAmGay hashtag, and shut down popular pro-LGBT rights accounts such as The Voice of Gay, which had more than 200,000 followers.
"Weibo was obviously pressured to reverse the ban, but the statement seemed hasty and too brief," said Sam Sun, a manager at Beijing Gender, a Beijing-based non-governmental organization that advocates for gender and sexual diversity and sexual health. Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, but it was still classified as a mental disorder until 2001. A 2016 UN report found only 5% of China's LGBT citizens have disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity outside of their families, and only 15% have told their families.
"The Chinese law currently does not contain discriminatory descriptions of the LGBT community, but there is also no specific articles that protect the LGBT people," Yu Liying, a lawyer from Hebei, told the ABC.
Photo promoting SaturGays inaugural event posted in ShekouDaily's community events directory in November 2016, caused a temporary inability to advertise on Facebook.
Chinese Sites Aren't the Only Ones
YouTube faced criticism when it was discovered back in March 2017 that they blocked some LGBT content. Non-explicit videos featuring LGBTQ themes were found to be classed as restricted on YouTube, which filters out “potentially inappropriate” content. The restriction has supposedly been eased to stop "filtering" non-explicit videos; however, some users are still complaining online that YouTube prevents content tagged as LGBT from being monetized.
Facebook has faced similar issues. ShekouDaily personally experienced Facebook's filtering when it was temporarily blocked from advertising on its platform after the above photo was used in its community events directory to promote SaturGays' inaugural event in Shekou in November, 2016; apparently for violating community standards in its advertising policy.
Facebook has come under and still faces criticism for the algorithms it uses to determine what content, not only LGBT, is acceptable or not on its platform.
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