For months, the Chinese video sharing application has been facing a lot of criticism for potential security breaches, that could grant the Chinese government access to private data of over 500 million active users. Yet, an investigation published last week in the Intercept revealed even more shocking information about the platforms' attempts to grow its follower-base using censorship policies that restricted certain types of content.
Leaked documents reveal the China-based social media company has policies censoring various forms of political speech, and instructed moderators to suppress posts by “ugly” people and the poor to attract new users. https://t.co/n8w3SsTVIY— The Intercept (@theintercept) March 16, 2020
According to the Intercept, TikTok moderators have been pushing content posted by certain users away from its promoted tab, affecting its chances of gaining popularity among other videos. The app reportedly restricted videos posted by "disabled, ugly, and fat users, in addition to members of the LGBT+ community".
Leaked documents and other sources told the Intercept that the video-sharing application has been intentionally filtering out content posted by users who "lack aesthetic looks", such as "having abnormal body shape, ugly facial looks, obvious beer belly or users involved in same-sex relationships".
American singer and songwriter Lizzo has called out TikTok this month for taking down her videos, in which "she posed in a bathing suit, while the platform allowed videos of other, more skinny girls, in similar outfits".
Lizzo Just Called Out TikTok — On TikTok — For Taking Down Her Bathing Suit Videos https://t.co/vwfq7GulEt— Phil Jahner (@philipp) March 9, 2020
Additionally, content with messages that aim to defame national or religious leaders weren't only prevented from surfacing through the recommended videos' tab called "For You", but users posting it were also banned from the platform, so as to "not portray China in a bad shape".
Local moderators in other regions have also been given the chance to ban content that could stir public outrage in these countries, such as banning content that highlights same-sex relationships in conservative countries where homosexuality is still a punishable illegal act.
These reports seem particularly important nowadays, given the growing number of quarantined users joining the TikTok world amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as they look for new means of entertainment that can help them kill time while staying at their homes.
Earlier reports had already emerged last September, highlighting similar violations committed by the increasingly popular app, and accusing it of "encouraging moderators' subjective policies."
TikTok guidelines directed its moderators to not promote posts by ‘ugly’ and poor users, @theintercept reports.— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) March 17, 2020
Discriminatory guidelines have leaked in the past, revealing that TikTok intentionally prevented posts from LGBTQ users and users with disabilities from surfacing. pic.twitter.com/8PT3dZgOc5
After a report published by the Guardian last fall, the app owned by ByteDance clarified that their restricting policies aim to stop cyber-bullying which could target users with certain disabilities or facial properties. TikTok pointed out its "commitment to creativity, equality, and diversity."
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