Over the last few days, a TikTok ‘makeup tutorial’ video of a girl showing the right way to curl your eyelashes had gone viral. The video showed the girl doing exactly that, but it’s what was being spoken that made the video viral.
New Jersey-based Feroza Aziz, spoke about the illegal detention of Uighurs in China and asked her followers to read more about how China is putting innocent Muslim residents in concentration camps. This was spread across three TikTok videos and it was spread on Twitter by other users as well. It seemed like it was too much for TikTok to take and the platform promptly ended up suspending Aziz’s account.
TikTok has now apologised for the act and has reinstated her account.
“We would like to apologise to the user for the error on our part this morning. In addition, we are reaching out to the user directly to inform her that we’ve decided to override the device ban in this case. Our moderation approach of banning devices associated with a banned account is designed to protect against the spread of coordinated malicious behaviour – and it’s clear that this was not the intent here. This user can again access her active account (@getmefamouspartthree) from the device she was using previously,” said the TikTok blog post which goes into detail regarding the timeline of events that made them ban the account.
A brief timeline of events before TikTok banned Aziz’s account
- On 14 November, TikTok banned Aziz’s earlier account (@getmefamousplzsir) which she used to post a satirical content about Osama bin Laden.
- TikTok claims that this was against community guidelines which prohibited any imagery related to terrorist figures.
- Later on the same day, Aziz added a new video to a second account (@getmefamouspartthree) which belongs to her, which had 19 videos till that day.
- Aziz’s new video was about the Uighur community being prosecuted in China.
- On 25 November, TikTok’s platform-wide enforcement was banning devices from which problematic content was posted. It involved 2,406 devices, and one of them happened to be Aziz’s device. Turns out Aziz had used the same smartphone for both the TikTok accounts.
- On 27 November, due to a human moderation error, Aziz’s video talking about Uighur community was taken down.
- The video went live on the platform, later on 27 November, after a senior moderator intervened. The video was offline for close to 50 mins.
TikTok has reiterated many times in the blog post that the video take down had nothing to do with the fact that it spoke about the Uighur Muslim community.
TikTok’s reasoning hard to believe
Aziz is obviously not buying this argument.
UPDATE: tik tok has issued a public apology and gave me my account back. Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No. pic.twitter.com/ehUpSJiyy1
— Feroza Aziz (@ferozaazizz) November 27, 2019
TikTok claims that it didn’t take into account the fact that the earlier Laden video, from Aziz’s previous account, was satirical as its content moderation policies are very strict about any terrorist-related content.
But a human moderator taking down a video which speaks about Uighur Muslims in China, speaks volumes about the kind of training the human moderators have to undergo.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese startup ByteDance, is easily the first Chinese-company-owned app that has got a truly global appeal and is even challenging the hegemony of Silicon Valley social media sites. It has even drawn the ire of none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
TikTok has been accused of censoring content which is dismissive of China and Chinese policies. Recently, searching for the term Hong Kong Protests did not show up any result on TikTok.
TikTok head Alex Zhu has maintained that TikTok does not take orders from Chinese regulators and will never take down any content that offends Chinese authorities — so long as no TikTok community guidelines are broken.
In the US, TikTok is under immense scrutiny from the regulators. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is seeking to provide assurances to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that personal data held by TikTok, which is widely popular with US teenagers, is stored securely in the United States and will not be compromised by Chinese authorities, the sources said.
CFIUS, which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, is looking into ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of social media app Musical.ly in 2017, which laid the foundations for TikTok’s rapid growth, Reuters reported earlier this month.