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>> I am gay. That's what hundreds of thousands of users on China's Twitter-like Weibo posted in protest over the weekend. And by Monday, the company reversed plans to remove gay content from the service. Just days before, Weibo said it would remove pornographic, violent, and gay videos and cartoons as part of a three month clean up campaign.
LGBT advocates poured online to criticize that decision with hashtags, open letters, and calls to dump shares in Sina, the company behind Weibo. I'm in Shanghai. The Iamgay hashtag was viewed nearly 300 million times on Weibo before it was censored this weekend. The outcry over Weibo's gay clean up reflects wider fears among the LGBT community that China is trying to censor all gay content as dirty.
Activists say that it's a setback in the effort to create a safe space online for LGBT people in sexually conservative China. The fight against Sina's decision saw gay Chinese speaking out with their own stories. This user said, my grandma is 84 years old. She supports homosexuality. Sina is really disappointing.
Activists say social media in China is a key battleground in their fight for tolerance. One activist told Reuters it used to be an open space, but things have changed in the last year. The initial announcement which came out late last week was set to be part of compliance with the new Chinese cybersecurity law.
It's the latest in the clampdown targeting content across social media platforms, as China, under leader Xi Jinping, tightens its grip on popular culture. Last week, news and online content portal Toutiao was forced to shut down a joke-sharing app after a watchdog criticized it for being too vulgar. The CEO later apologized for not respecting, quote, core socialist values.