Inside TikTok’s Chinese Dystopian Censorship Machine


Censorship also does not seem to have stayed in China. Investigative journalists uncovered internal documents suggesting that TikTok told its moderators throughout 2019 to delete videos from users with “abnormal body shape”, “too many wrinkles” or “troubles eyepieces ”.The goal, it seems, was to make sure that new users were sucked into the app by beautiful people, rather than being turned off by “ugly” or “shoddy” features.

Another investigation found that TikTok’s policy was to systematically remove videos of people with disabilities (such as those with “autism”, “Down syndrome” or “facial disfigurement”), apparently to prevent them to be bullied. A user in Germany, who had been called a “special user”, described the practice as “discriminatory” and “inhuman”.

Then there were the political directives, which supposedly censor Western videos of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan independence, or the anti-communist religious sect of Falun Gong.

TikTok responded that most of these documents were out of date or no longer in effect. In a few cases, she said she had no record of it. He described disability policies and guidelines as “direct” or early attempts to limit service conflicts, which then gave way to more “nuanced” solutions.

So how much of Douyin’s censorship and surveillance has an impact on TikTok? Does TikTok also use facial recognition? If so, in what ways? In other words, how worried should Western users be?

A TikTok spokesperson declined to answer these specific questions, saying only, “TikTok takes the safety of our young users very seriously. We have strict rules against users under the age of 16 who participate in live streaming.

“In addition to the age limitation, we also rely on human moderators who assess factors that clearly indicate that users are under the age of 16, such as the information that users put in their public biography that may contradict what they provided during registration.

“TikTok has never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we be if we were asked. “


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