It's not uncommon for pro-life groups to find their message subdued and even outright censored on US social media giants like Twitter and Facebook – who might be traditionally associated with liberal, and therefore, pro-choice attitudes.
But there's a new kid on the social networks block: China's seemingly unstoppable TikTok – where users share short, viral videos, and which has managed to propel itself to the very top of the list of the most downloaded apps both in the US, and globally last year.
So could this be a platform where pro-life activist sites, like Live Action, might hope to spread their message without interference?
Not really. In a tweet, the organization announced that a video aimed at raising awareness of “the importance of speaking out on abortion” and posted on TikTok got quickly deleted for a violation of community guidelines.
Yesterday we posted a video that raised awareness of the importance of speaking out on abortion
The video was swiftly deleted by TikTok & our team was notified the video "violated community guidelines"
We immediately appealed
30 minutes later we were BANNED from the platform pic.twitter.com/iLJ2k9cpso
— Live Action (@LiveAction) January 31, 2020
And when the Live Action News appealed – the response was apparently TikTok's reaction coming within “30 minutes” by banning the account outright. Altogether.
And that was that.
Most seasoned observers of China's political/media/digital climate and associated societal and business mores, will not have been surprised by the efficiency of censorship demonstrated here – but it seems like Live Action News got somewhat blindsided.
The account was eventually reinstated, but not before getting the attention of a US Senator, Josh Hawley:
Now @tiktok_us not content to spy on Americans – going after @LilaGraceRose and pro-life voices https://t.co/CzJQ3Hcy7j
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) January 31, 2020
Here's Live Action founder Lila Rose on the issue:
“TikTok has rightfully reinstated Live Action's account. We received an email from TikTok at 11:29 AM PT/2:29 pm ET apologizing for what TikTok is calling ‘human error'. They admitted that our account “is not in violation of any of our Community Guidelines.” Tiktok must improve their training and oversight to ensure that such dramatic ‘human errors' like this aren't made in the future for us or any other pro-life organization.
We contacted TikTok yesterday asking for an answer and resolution and only after we escalated the problem, did they finally reinstate the account. Not every pro-life American has the reach that Live Action has to sound the alarm on censorship and viewpoint discrimination. What we saw today is the power of social media, the pro-life movement, and news outlets in doing their job to call out pro-life viewpoint discrimination. Now, go follow us on TikTok.”
TikTok gave the following statement to Live Action:
“We're writing to let you know that your account was incorrectly removed due to a human error. After re-reviewing your account, we have concluded that your account is not in violation of any of our Community Guidelines. This means that your account is back up and active. We apologize for the error.”
If there's one thing TikTok might share with its western social media giant counterparts – other than the insatiable thirst for monetizing users and their data – it would have to be presenting unconvincing reasons for challenging a ban.
All too often, the only explanation users will get from either TikTok or Twitter… is no more and no better than – “you've committed multiple community guidelines violations.”
TikTok – for those still unaware of it – is Chinese tech unicorn ByteDance's “rest-of-the-world” version of Douyin – the name under which the app is distributed in mainland China.
TikTok and Douyin are one and the same – but ByteDance made sure to rename and rebrand, and separate servers for the rest of the world, in order to comply with China's state censorship.
Now, it's apparently anyone's guess which jurisdiction's censorship the app seems to be observing right now.
Live Action has been censored multiple times by social media platforms in recent times:
Mark Zuckerberg agrees there “clearly was bias” in Facebook “fact-check” of pro-life non-profit Live Action
Facebook limits account of pro-life non-profit Live Action, telling followers that their content is fake news
Live Action founder Lila Rose calls out Pinterest censorship in White House Social Media Summit speech