TikTok Executive Admits to Censoring Anti-Chinese Content — Then Walks It Back

TikTok censors anti-Chinese content
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TikTok censors anti-Chinese content
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Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa

A TikTok executive admitted to UK lawmakers that the platform censors anti-Chinese content.

The statement was made during a hearing on Thursday, held by the UK’s Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee. Elizabeth Kanter, TikTok’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, made the damning comments.

TikTok is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, which has led to a possible TikTok ban in the US. That ban is slated to take place on November 12th, though it’s unclear if it will go into effect.

In the past, TikTok has denied allegations that it censors anti-Chinese content on the platform.

However, Digital Music News has chronicled several cases of censorship on TikTok. Earlier this year, moderators on the platform were told to hide content from fat, ugly, LGBT, and otherwise undesirable people from its ‘Discover’ tab. TikTok was also caught censoring make-up videos with hidden anti-Chinese conversations around the detaining of Uyghur Muslims.

The UK hearing was held to determine whether businesses in the UK are exploiting forced labor in those Xinjiang camps. Kanter initially told the committee that TikTok does not censor content. But when pressed about those previous incidents of censorship on the platform, Kanter admitted something different. She said those videos were removed “in the early days of TikTok” when content was governed by different guidelines.

“The people who wrote the content guidelines took a decision to not allow conflict on the platform, and so there were some incidents where content was not allowed on the platform, specifically with regard to the Uyghur situation,” Kanter said in her original testimony.

But now Kanter is clarifying her statement about whether TikTok censors anti-Chinese content – saying she misspoke.

“TikTok has previously acknowledged that in our very early days, we took a blunt approach to moderating content that promoted conflict, but we’ve also said we recognized this was the wrong approach and eliminated it,” Kanter says. “However, we want to be absolutely clear that even in those early policies, there was never a policy around the Uyghur community, which is where I misspoke.”

What Kanter is saying is that those original policies banned conflict content – of which the detention camps in China qualify. That allows ByteDance to censor the content without saying it is specifically censoring anti-Chinese content. Since the issue is ‘conflicted’ it apparently has no place on TikTok “in those early days.”

TikTok claims it does not censor content, but Digital Music News has several documented instances of it. Toss this latest denial on the pile of denials, alongside their transparency report.