TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app that filled the gap in the market left when Vine disappeared, is in hot water for suppressing videos from users with unacceptable identities. This discriminatory behavior was brought to light through the release of internal documents. Generation Z and celebrities alike have been flocking to over the past year, and our new world of social distancing and self-quarantining is further increasing the app’s traffic. However, The Intercept, an online investigative journalism site, just reported the troubling protocols required of TikTok moderators.
Leaked internal documents reveal that moderators are instructed to suppress videos of those deemed “ugly, poor, or disabled.” The app also tries to parse out TikToks, showing “rural poverty, slums, beer bellies, and crooked smiles.” Overtly political content, specifically the content deemed undermining of “national honor,” is also pulled from the site. In addition, TikTok employees were reportedly told to flag content that promotes homosexuality, dwarfism, and “too many wrinkles.” All of these protocols are meant to cultivate an attractive and apolitical environment. But the bottom line is that TikTok’s practices are discriminatory toward many people.
Intercept isn’t the first to call TikTok out on its questionable practices. Grammy award-winning musician Lizzo has spoken out against the app in the recent past. Lizzo has become a hero in the body positivity community as a plus-size, black woman who often posts revealing photos across social media platforms. She slammed TikTok for removing images of her in bathsuits. If these judgments suppress international celebrities’ content, regular folks are indeed affected.
TikTok has not apologized but claims the censorship is in place to limit bullying. They claim that pulling controversial or “unattractive” videos protects those users from cyber harassment.
The company also has reported speaking directly with influencers on the app to inform them of any unpublished rules moderators are enforcing. TikTok representatives did not comment on these exclusive video conferences.