Feminists to sue China social media giants for deleting group's accounts

On International Women's Day earlier this month, Feminist Voices found that its account on Weibo was deleted. The next day, the Chinese feminist organisation's WeChat public account disappeared. – EPA pic, March 24, 2018.

FEMINIST activists are preparing to sue China’s biggest social media platforms for deleting their organisation’s accounts, the group’s founder said today.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, staffers operating the prolific Feminist Voices account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform found that it had been deleted.

Weibo customer service representatives told them by phone that the account could not be reactivated due to the posting of “sensitive and illegal information”, the group’s founder, Lu Pin, told AFP.

The next day, the group’s WeChat public account disappeared.

The group has run into trouble before on social media, with its accounts being temporarily suspended and individual posts deleted, but “this time, they say it’s a permanent deletion”, said Lu.

Feminist Voices has “already begun legal procedures, and is preparing to sue Weibo and WeChat”, she said, adding that the activists have sent letters of complaint to both the government department in charge of the internet and the All-China Women’s Federation.

Neither Sina Weibo nor internet giant Tencent, which runs WeChat, has responded to requests for comment.

The blackout prompted Lu to pen an open letter to British actress Emma Watson – “one of the feminist idols held in highest esteem by young Chinese women,” she said – to solicit the celebrity’s support.

“We are struggling to reactivate our accounts so that we can continue our work, and are asking you to demonstrate your open support for Feminist Voices on Twitter,” she wrote in the English-language missive, posted on Twitter yesterday.

China’s ruling Communist Party runs one of the world’s most restrictive online censorship regimes.

Feminist Voices, which established an account on Weibo in 2010, was temporarily blocked by authorities last year after it translated and posted parts of an article by US academics calling for a “general women’s strike”.

The article in question spoke of the need for “a new wave of militant feminist struggle” against US President Donald Trump’s “aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies”.

The post was deleted, and the group’s Weibo account suspended for 30 days – the first instance of a blackout since its founding, with a notice stating that the group had “violated Chinese laws and regulations”.

Feminist Voices has garnered 250,000 followers since 2010, said Lu. – AFP, March 24, 2018.

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