Chinese social media giant Sina Weibo has backed down from a controversial ban on online content “related to homosexuality” after outrage from the country’s internet users.
The company, which is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, said on Friday that for the next three months it would be removing photos, videos, text and comics “with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to homosexuality.”
The company said the ban was an effort to “create a sunny and harmonious community environment” and comply with the country’s strict cybersecurity laws.
Last July, the Chinese government took the extraordinary step of banning all gay content from the Internet.
Over the weekend, Weibo users responded to the surprise ban by posting pro-LGBTI comments, photos with their partners, and rainbow emojis, sending the hashtags #iamgay and #iamgaynotapervert viral on the site.
LGBTI rights activist Pu Chunmei posted photos of herself with her gay son on Weibo and wrote, “I am the mother of a gay son. My son and I love our country… we are proud to be Chinese!
“But today I saw the announcement by Sina Weibo… it is discriminating and attacking this sexual minority, and this is violence!”
Some posts were reportedly deleted by the company’s censors, but the viral hashtags were viewed more than 1 million times.
But Weibo made a further announcement that the “cleanup” would “no longer apply to homosexual content,” The Guardian reported.
“We thank everyone for their discussion and suggestions,” the company added in a statement.
The founder of PFLAG China, Ah Qiang, wrote in a blog post that Weibo wouldn’t have withdrawn the ban on LGBTI content if it hadn’t been for the viral campaign.
“When more and more people stand up, the only thing homophobic people can do is to delete their stupid decisions,” he wrote.
China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and declassified it as a mental illness in 2001, but conservative attitudes towards LGBTI people remain and authorities have cracked down on LGBTI-themed content in recent years.