07 Dec 2019
Shocking! TikTok suppressed videos by disabled, fat, LGBTQ creators
TikTok is in trouble again, this time for suppressing the videos of certain users.
An expose has revealed that the video-sharing platform has been limiting the reach of videos made by disabled users as well as those belonging to the LGBTQ community.
The Chinese company admitted to the practice, but said it did this to prevent them from cyber-bullying.
Pretty twisted logic, eh?
TikTok's policies instructed moderators to restrict reach of videos
Like all such platforms, TikTok moderators look at the videos shared on the platform and remove those violating the company's policies.
However, weirdly enough, these policies also instructed the moderators to look and restrict the reach of videos made by people with "facial disfigurement, autism, Down syndrome, or those with a physical disability or some facial problem such as a birthmark or slight squint."
TikTok classified them as 'vulnerable'
TikTok's policies asked the moderators to flag these users, as they were "susceptible to bullying or harassment based on their physical or mental condition."
Once an account is flagged, its videos wouldn't be shown to anyone outside the user's home country.
In fact, if an account appears particularly vulnerable, the moderators prevented its clip from appearing in the main video feed of the app.
Even LGBTQ members, fat users were targeted
While the TikTok policy in question revolved around users suffering from disabilities, a list of affected users obtained by German site Netzpolitik revealed that people identifying themselves as fat or members of the LGBTQ community were also flagged by the moderators.
One of these users was Annika, a 21-year-old self-described fat woman with 23,000 TikTok followers. She described TikTok's action as "discriminatory" and "inhuman."
TikTok said its intention was good, approach was wrong
Following Netzopolitik's revelation, TikTok admitted to preventing certain users from going viral but emphasized that it only wanted to save them from cyber-bullying.
"This was never designed to be a long-term solution, and while the intention was good, it became clear that the approach was wrong," the company said. "We have long since removed the policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies."
No clarity on when the policy was removed
Though TikTok says it removed the policy to correct its ways, it remains unclear when exactly the company took the move.
Either way, the action marks another controversy for TikTok, which has previously drawn criticism for collecting sensitive data from children as well as suspending the account of a teenager who highlighted the mistreatment of Muslims in China on the platform.