TikTok, the rapidly-growing Chinese-owned social network has apologized for suspending the account of a US teenager went viral with her clip criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims.
The company said that it has now lifted the suspension – saying again that it wasn’t trying to censor on behalf of China (something that it’s constantly being accused of) and saying that Feroza Aziz’s ban was related to her previous conduct on the app.
TikTok has confirmed that it was a human moderator that flagged the account to be suspended – not an algorithm.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and has constantly said that it doesn’t apply Chinese moderation principles to its product outside of mainland China.
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Aziz said on Twitter that she does not accept TikTok’s explanation and apology.
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.x (@x_feroza) November 27, 2019
“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 three-part video about the Uighurs? No.”
Eric Han, TikTok’s “head of safety” in the US, said Aziz had been previously banned after she posted a satirical video containing an image of Osama Bin Laden.
“While we recognize that this video may have been intended as satire,” Mr Han said, “our policies on this front are currently strict.”
A recent investigation reported that TikTok moderation is mostly done from two European locations: Berlin and Barcelona, and from Beijing, under Chinese leadership.
From Reclaim The Net’s previous report:
“Depending on the severity of the transgression, videos are either deleted, made visible only to the creator, or removed from the recommendations feed that is the first thing a user sees when launching the app – something allowing huge exposure to those videos that make it to the feed.
TikTok’s moderators are also able to mark videos as “risks” that will result in “block or throttling” in a particular country to comply with local laws. On the other hand, content that those behind the app favor can be successfully promoted all the way to becoming viral.”
TikTok is currently facing censorship and privacy national security investigations but are sticking to the story that this suspension wasn’t retaliatory censorship.