TikTok has been under fire recently over accusations that its global moderation policies are too in thrall to the government of its parent company’s homeland, China. The line coming out of TikTok executives in the US this month has been that censorship decisions on the platform in the west are NOT driven by Beijing. That’s now being tested by three videos that have gone viral on TikTok (and beyond) from American teenager Feroza Aziz.
She started and ended the videos by talking about eyelashes, as if they were a regular makeup vlog. But in between, Aziz criticised the Chinese government for its treatment of Uighur Muslims in the country – a hot-potato political issue in China.
BBC News reports that one of the videos has been watched 1.4m times on TikTok, but the videos have also been shared on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube by Aziz (example here) and other people, garnering millions more views. Now she says she has been suspended from posting on TikTok for a month, although TikTok appears to be disputing that the suspension is related to these videos, saying that it’s for an older infraction of its rules. This, though, is exactly the kind of situation that politicians in the US have been waiting for: to see how TikTok deals with an American citizen expressing political views on the platform.
TikTok’s approach to this and any similar examples will be watched very closely in the US, amid calls for investigations into its parent company Bytedance’s acquisition of Musical·ly in 2017.