On December 1, administrators on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform, announced a new guideline banning the use of profane terms in usernames.
As examples, Weibo administrators cited terms such as erhuo (二货, an idiot), SB (a dumb c**t), niangpao (娘炮, sissy), and biesan (瘪三, a broke and unemployed person), all of which can no longer be included in usernames.
“Users who have these terms in their username have until December 8 to change it. Those who fail to do so risk having their username deleted and being banned from posting temporarily,” reads the official statement, which fails to clarify why anyone would want these terms in their username to begin with.
The latest guideline is part of the Clear and Bright Campaign, which aims to improve the Chinese cyberspace environment and promote civility online. The related hashtag ‘Weibo usernames can’t include terms such as sissy’ (#微博昵称不得含娘炮等词汇#) has gone viral on Weibo, accumulating more than 160 million views at the time of writing.
Some netizens were confused by the new rule, with one commenting snarkily, “So is it ok if I put ‘fart’ in my username?”
Others applauded the new policy, with one Weibo user writing, “You can express yourselves in your username, but don’t make others uncomfortable.”
Some, however, remained skeptical of the regulation, pointing out that just a few months ago, government organizations such as the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio and Television were using the word ‘sissy.’
The new rule comes at a time when US social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are increasing efforts to combat hate speech. Facebook, for example, has invested in advanced AI to remove hate speech.
Similarly, Twitter announced in its 2021 Transparency Report that in the second half of 2020, it had taken action against a record number of accounts for posting hateful content.
The new regulation is another indication that China has stepped up its effort to combat toxic culture online. For example, in October 2020, China passed a new law requiring service providers to combat cyberbullying promptly.
The frequent use of terms such as ‘sissy’ highlights the ongoing issues of toxic masculinity and pervasive misogyny in China. However, more are becoming aware of the power of language in perpetuating gender stereotypes.
For example, Chinese rapper Yu Zhen famously said in a campaign video for Women’s Day 2021, “We say, ‘be a good woman — no need to study that much, no need to fight for a career, doing well is not as good as marrying well, it’s better your prioritize family.’ We say, ‘be a real man — don’t cry, don’t say you like pink, don’t sit around in the house, don’t be like a woman.’”
Cover image via Unsplash, compiled by Sabina Islas
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