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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Saturday, April 14, 2018

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: 'I am gay' protests as China bans 'homosexual' content on Weibo

SIGNS OF THE TIMES:  'I am gay' protests as China bans 'homosexual' content on Weibo

China's Sina Weibo said it would remove "homosexual" content from the popular microblogging platform, prompting a storm of online protests Saturday under the hashtag "I am gay".
Weibo said in a statement Friday it had begun a "clean-up campaign" to remove "illegal" content, including "manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality".


It is the latest sign in a crackdown by the ruling Communist Party to purge the Internet of any content deviating from its "core values ​​of socialism" while stifling criticism of social norms and established policies.
The three-month campaign will also tackle "violent video games, like 'Grand Theft Auto'," Weibo said on the official account of its administrators.
The popular Twitter-like platform, which boasts 400 million active monthly users, said it was implementing China's new cybersecurity law and had already removed some 56,240 items by Friday evening.
The announcement provoked a flood of reaction from stunned or outraged Chinese Internet users, with protesters rallying behind the hashtag "I am gay".
By midday Saturday, it had been used by some 170,l000 Weibo users, before it was apparently banned by the platform.
"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," one angry commenter said.
"How is it that public opinion has narrowed so much in the last two years?" said another.
China only decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, but conservative attitudes remain widespread.
"It's simply discriminatory! Many mangas removed were not pornographic," observed a third.
The large online community of "funu" ("deviant girls"), heterosexual women who are avid fans of male gay romances and share comics or stories, was particularly critical.
Many messages protesting at the content crackdown were deleted.
Authorities closely monitor the Internet to purge any content deemed sensitive, such as political criticism or pornography, and require websites to have their own censors.
China has seen a tightening wave of censorship under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who advocates a stronger promotion of socialist ideology in society.
One of its latest victims was Toutiao, one of China's most popular news aggregator apps, which was punished this week for allowing users to share ribald jokes or videos and has promised to increase its censorship staff to 10,000.


Sex workers 'devastated,' look to alternatives after Backpage closure

When the Department of Justice unceremoniously shut down Backpage last week, it was the first public-facing step in a sweeping criminal case against the website's executives.
But before federal authorities could issue a statement, before the classified site’s owners would face a judge, and before the public would learn of their charges, the narrative around Backpage had taken on a life of its own.
The site had served as a microcosm of a larger debate on prostitution in recent years, and the seizure of what the DOJ called the "Internet's leading forum for prostitution ads" ignited swift reactions on both sides. 
Anti-sex-trafficking advocates, including Cindy McCain, cheered Backpage’s demise as a blow to an abusive industry.
Cindy McCain on April 6, 2018, lauded the indictment of one of Backpage's co-founders, Michael Lacey.
Meanwhile, sex workers across the U.S. and Canada swarmed social media to air concerns rarely heard in political discourse: To them, Backpage’s demise meant the end of safeguards and a reliable revenue stream in a profession that’s not going anywhere.  
“They’re devastated,” said Laura Dilley, executive director of PACE, a Vancouver-based nonprofit that advocates for decriminalizing prostitution.
If sex workers can’t advertise online, they can’t screen their clients beforehand and are forced back out to bars and into the street, Dilley said.
“It’s more dangerous and there’s more of a police presence,” she said. “They’re just going to be at more of a heightened risk.”
While many sex workers told The Arizona Republic they would continue posting on other smaller websites, they also worry about the future. On Wednesday morning, President Trump signed a bill giving prosecutors more power to go after websites that knowingly host sex-trafficking ads. It also gives women who claimed they were trafficked the ability to sue.
It's not clear how websites will respond. After the bill passed Congress, for example, Craigslist took down its singles ads. And as the bill was moving through Congress, Backpage restricted postings on singles ads to photos, phone numbers and web links.
"There’s a lot of uncertainty; a lot of grief and fear," said Jelena Vermilion, a sex worker based outside of Toronto. "A lot of people are essentially planning to be homeless, planning how to fall gracefully as much as possible...From Friday, a lot of these people haven’t had any calls."

Sex workers: Backpage kept me safe  

IndyStar columnist Tim Swarens spent more than a year investigating a lucrative business where abused children are bought and sold. USA TODAY
After the Backpage closure April 6, an Arizona-based sex worker called Vegas said she relied on her regular clients to get her through that weekend.
“I am going to do what I have to do to survive,” she said. “I might have to work the streets, work the bars; you do what you have to do."
Prostitution is still illegal in 49 states, the exception being certain counties in Nevada. For this reason, The Arizona Republic has agreed to withhold the sex workers' legal names for this story. In Canada, selling sex is legal, but buying it isn't.
Vegas said Backpage afforded her more anonymity than meeting strangers in public. And it gave her a barrier to screen her clients and meet them in a safe place.
NEED MORE BACKGROUND ON BACKPAGE?
The woman described how she would have unknown clients call from her cross street so she could check them out from her window. She doesn’t believe Backpage’s closing will stem prostitution or sex trafficking.
“It will push it underground,” Vegas said, noting that Backpage screened for ads that appeared to include someone underage or trafficking victims.
“Backpage had an incentive to review the ads and make sure nothing was going on,” she said. “Now, it’s going to force people out to the streets, where we can’t really fight.”
A Michigan woman who goes by the name Sarah Fenix on Twitter posted a viral thread about how the ability to screen on Backpage saved her from riskier sex work. 

 WHEN IS THAT COMET COMING AGAIN?