TikTok has been in the news for a lot recently. This time it’s for limiting the reach of people with disabilities, including facial disfigurement and Down syndrome. According to Netzpolitik.org, the policy is to protect users with a high risk of bullying. A source inside the company spoke on this. However, this seems to have played out as discrimination.
TikTok fame relies heavily on promoting content through TikTok’s algorithm. But Netzpolitik.org’s source alleges that it is difficult for people who might be bullied. One risk category meant that videos only appear in the country where they are uploaded.
Another, known as “Auto R,” stopped videos from hitting other users’ “For You” feed after hitting a certain view count. This tag might be applied to individual videos, but for a couple of dozen “special users,” it was supposedly the default.
“Auto R” could cover disabilities like Down Syndrome, but Netzpolitik.org describes TikTok limiting the reach of “fat and self-confident” users, LGBT users, or users with autism. In other words, people likely to face abuse online.
As the article notes, these categories can be difficult to judge simply from profiles or videos. While the policy is to prevent bullying, it is instead punishing the likely victims.
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TikTok Says “Measures not Intended to be a Long-term Solution”
TikTok says “the rules are an early and flawed attempt to fight conflict”. The spokesperson told Netzpolitik.org that they were “never intended to be a long-term solution,” and moderators were instructed to follow them as recently as September. “Early on, in response to an increase in bullying on the app, we implemented a blunt and temporary policy,” a representative told The Verge.
“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.”
TikTok has previously faced charges of political censorship, including limiting videos that would offend the Chinese government.
It recently suspended a user who criticized China’s mass imprisonment of Uighur Muslims. Although a spokesperson said the suspension was actually related to a different video, and that the ban was later reversed.
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