Chinese social network TikTok became popular with short videos when it was still called Musical.ly and, in 2018, even surpassed Uber in market value. And, while gaining users, the platform maintains a very favorable policy to the government of China.
This is what the TikTok guidelines point to their moderators. According to the The Guardian, ByteDance, the company responsible for the social network, advises employees to prevent the free circulation of videos that displease the Chinese government.
The content is revealed amid suspicions that videos on TikTok about the protests in Hong Kong were censored for political reasons. This is because several stretches of the guidelines are generic, but appear to have been created to serve the government.
One of the points prohibits “criticism and attacks on policies, social rules of any country, such as monarchy, parliamentary system, separation of powers, socialist system, etc.”. Another vetoes the “demonization or distortion of local history or that of other countries, such as the May 1998 riots in Indonesia, the Cambodian genenocide [entre 1975 e 1979] and the incidents of Tiananmen Square [na China, em 1989]”.
There is also a ban on “highly controversial topics, such as separatism, religion and sects conflicts, conflicts between ethnic groups by, for example, overestimating Islamic sects conflicts, inciting the independence of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Chechnya, Tibet and Taiwan, and overestimate the ethnic conflict between blacks and whites ”.
Publications that fail to comply with these rules are marked as “visible to themselves”, that is, they remain available, but have a reduced reach. When this happens, the user does not know if the content violated TikTok policies or if it was simply not considered interesting by the platform’s algorithm.
The TikTok guidelines also provide for videos to be marked as “violation”, which leads to their permanent removal and, in some cases, the exclusion of the user. This rule includes videos related to the “Momo challenge”, for example.
TikTok has other pretty debatable rules, to say the least. One of them deals with child pornography and says that when it is not clear that the person in the video is under 18, moderators should “treat them like an adult”.
To Guardian, ByteDance said the document was updated in May. The new guidelines of the social network have regionalized moderation policies, including the participation of local moderators.
“In the early days of TikTok, we took a direct approach to minimizing conflict on the platform and our moderation guidelines allowed penalties for items such as conflict-promoting content, such as religious sects and ethnic groups, covering various regions around the world,” said the company.
“When TikTok started taking off globally last year, we recognized that this was not the right approach and we started working to empower local teams that have a different understanding of each market. As we grow, we implement this approach that is localized to everything from the product team to policy development. ”