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Weibo is removing content with the #les hashtag

Precious Adesina April 15, 2019
Sina Weibo site on a tablet.

Weibo began the ban on the #les hashtag over the weekend. (Mark Ralston/Getty)

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.

Woman protesting for LGBT+ rights to tackle Weibo's censoring of LGBT+ content.
Activists have continuously tried to tackle Weibo’s censoring of LGBT+ content.

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.

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