The Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo has reportedly been removing posts and comments with the hashtag #les.
The ban on the term, which is short for lesbian, was discovered by users who use the site’s “super topic” feature, where people can create online communities using a hashtag.
Prior to its removal, the #les hashtag’s “super topic” had over 140,000 followers and 125,000 posts.
#Les was also one of the most searched terms on Weibo before content attached to it was taken down.
The Chinese non-profit organisation Beijing LGBT Centre says the ban came into place over the weekend, according to SupChina.
Targeting the LGBT+ online community
The removal comes almost a year after Weibo banned homosexual content as part of a “cleanup”.
The move resulted in a backlash from its users, leading to the rise of hashtags such as #IAmGay and #IHaveGayFriends in protest.
Consequently, the ban was reversed only three days after it began. “We won’t target gay content anymore,” Weibo announced in a statement. “Instead, we’ll focus on content with pornographic and violent themes.”
“Media censorship blocks representation and shaping public positive public attitudes towards LGBT people.”
— Yanzi Peng, LGBT Rights Advocacy Group China
Weibo’s reported removal of lesbian content is said to be part of a new campaign by China’s National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.
According to a document released last week, the organisation says online content not inline with “correct marriage views and ethics” will be removed.
Yanzi Peng, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy Group China, believes censorship is a regular occurrence for China’s LGBT+ community. “Media censorship blocks representation and shaping public positive public attitudes towards LGBT people,” he told Gay Star News.
#IAmLes is now being used on weibo
Users have posted photographs and videos of themselves with a cross on their mouths on Weibo and have used the hashtag #IAmLes to voice their disdain for the removal of lesbian content. The new term has garnered over 530,000 comments.
China’s Netcasting Service Association (CNSA) banned LGBT+ online content in 2017.