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TikTok, the social networking video network app, has admitted they suppressed content from users they assumed to be “vulnerable to cyberbullying.”
The staff behind the company implemented a set of policies that suppressed the reach of content by users they noted as having: autism, down syndrome, facial disfigurement, obesity, and more.
German outlet Netzpolitik reported that TikTok asked moderators to watch 15-second videos and decide if the creator looked like they would be bullied. If they looked like material, the moderators would add flags to the “vulnerable” users. These flags would stop videos from being seen outside their home country, and in some cases, stop them from being seen in feeds.
The report noted their list of flagged users included people with and without disabilities, and whose profile information included hashtags like #fatwoman and #disabled, as well as had rainbow flags or other LGBTQ monikers.
There was speculation that the users targeted by these policies stem from TikTok’s national origins – China, where media and content featuring said people is typically censored. TikTok went on to say this wasn’t the case.
A TikTok spokesperson said “this approach was never intended to be a long-term solution” and noted the policies were no longer in use. They added, “while the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.’”
Despite the TikTok’s statement, Netzpolitik reported the rules were seemingly in place as recently as September 2019.
Do you use TikTok, or know of anyone that does? Sound off in the comments below!