How TikTok censors communication China would rather you not hear

A new report details how TikTok censors communications that portrays China in a bad light.


September 27, 2019

A bombshell report from The Guardian suggests ByteDance — the Beijing-based tech titan that owns TikTok — is promoting a Chinese agenda to young app users around the world by censoring certain content.

There are some things you just can’t say… a lot of them, actually

According to documents leaked to The Guardian, TikTok has a long list of banned topics that includes various political figures, religious groups, historical events, and cultural movements.

Less offensive content is marked “visible to self.” Though not deleted, these videos are limited on TikTok’s curated feed. Materials deemed dangerous are marked “violations” and deleted from the site. 

Some suspect TikTok has been squelching discussion of the protests in Hong Kong. Searches using #hongkong bring up silly singalongs… which definitely isn’t the story there.

But change is afoot … maybe

ByteDance says the reported guidelines were retired in May, and that the company has since implemented a localized approach to content moderation, meaning local moderators keep tabs on local content.

So what’s left to Tok about?

Even with new content moderation policies, it’s still unclear what TikTok users outside of China will and won’t be able to post.

This will be interesting as TikTok picks up steam globally. During the first half of 2018, TikTok was the iOS App Store’s most-downloaded app worldwide, and it remains especially popular with people under age 25.

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