China has issued a fresh ban on homosexuality-related audio and visual content on the internet. Announcing the new regulations on Friday, 30 June, the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) said any display of "abnormal sexual behaviours", including homosexuality, will be removed from cyberspace.
Instructing the streaming platforms to remove a range of programmes from the internet, CNSA said videos related to "terrorism, superstition and homosexuality" should not be aired.
In what appears to be a move aimed at pre-censorship of all content before it is broadcast, the new regulations essentially require internet service providers (ISPs) to adopt a "check first" policy with the enforcement authorities. ISPs have been asked to hire at least three "professional censors" to scrutinise audiovisual content from end-to-end to ensure it does not violate the guidelines.
A range of programmes such as cartoons, documentaries, web series and short films would come under the purview of the new regulations. The rules state that programmes which do not adhere to "correct political and aesthetic standards" should be removed.
The crackdown is yet another step by the communist party to tighten its control over the internet, which is already heavily censored in the country. Only a week ago, the regulators banned video streaming on three top websites including the most popular micro-blogging platform Weibo.
The latest regulations have triggered strong criticism in Chinese social media. "The false information in these regulations has already caused harm to the Chinese LGBT community – who are already subjected to prejudice and discrimination," said the pro-LGBT Chinese magazine Gay Voice.
Calling the rules "absurd and wrong", Zhang Beichuan, a sexologist at China's Qingdao University, told the Global Times: "Homosexuality is a normal and natural phenomenon that involved a small group of people, as defined in Chinese university text books."