Chinese social network Sina Weibo is to stop a planned crackdown on content related to gay issues after a hashtag-driven campaign by outraged users.
Weibo.com – which offers a similar feature-set to Twitter – was inundated with #ImGay and #ImGayNotAPervert posts over the weekend after the website announced a “clean-up campaign”.
Weibo said last week it would investigate cartoons and short videos with “pornographic, violent or gay subject matter”.
LGBT groups spoke out over the plans to group gay-related content with that of a violent or pornographic nature, which Sina Weibo said was being done in response to new cyber-security laws.
The ruling Communist Party aims to purge the internet of any content deviating from its “core values of socialism”, with the micro-blogging site moving to block such “illegal content” over the course of three months.
More than 56,000 posts had been removed by the end of Friday, but the South China Morning Post reported that the #ImGay hashtag had also been viewed almost 300 million times before it was censored.
One user wrote: “There can be no homosexuality under socialism? It is unbelievable that China progresses economically and militarily but returns to the feudal era in terms of ideas.”
Another described the ban as “discriminatory”, while one asked: “How is it that public opinion has narrowed so much in the last two years?”
Sina Weibo has around 400 million active monthly users and the backlash caused Nasdaq shares in the company to fall, prompting it to reverse its decision.
In a statement released on Monday, Sina Weibo said: “This clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target homosexual content.”
The censorship of other content deemed offensive, which the company said included “violent video games, like Grand Theft Auto”, will continue as planned.
Homosexuality became legal in China in 1997 and while few of the country’s population are said to have religious objections, conservative attitudes towards it remain widespread.