TikTok reverses ban on teen who criticized China’s crackdown on Muslims

The video app TikTok reversed its ban on an account belonging to an American teenager who criticized China’s internment of minority Muslims, admitting that its moderation system had overstepped in shutting down her account. 

“There has been significant interest and confusion regarding a user’s two TikTok accounts and her viral video talking about the Uighur community in China,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

“We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part this morning. In addition, we are reaching out to the user directly to inform her that we’ve decided to override the device ban in this case. Our moderation approach of banning devices associated with a banned account is designed to protect against the spread of coordinated malicious behavior — and it’s clear that this was not the intent here.” 

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The account, belonging to 17-year-old Feroza Aziz, was first blocked after she berated China for the mass internment of the minority Uighur community amid reports that the Muslim group was being funneled into concentration camps.

Aziz posted a video that at first appears to be a makeup tutorial. But several seconds in, Aziz begins discussing the Uighurs, saying, “Use your phone that you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in China, how they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there.”

However, TikTok said the account was banned not for that post but because a different video from a previous account posted a clip earlier this month including a picture of Osama bin Laden.

The incident resurfaced concerns over whether TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, would be used to suppress censures of Beijing.

The company has denied that it blocks political speech that criticizes China.

TikTok said it is conducting a broader review of its moderation process after the incident and will publish a lengthier version of its guidelines in the coming months. 

“We are reviewing both the procedural breakdown in this incident, as well as conducting a broader review on our process, to identify areas where we can improve our practice,” the company said. “To continue to provide transparency for our users, we will also be releasing our first transparency report as well a much fuller version of our Community Guidelines, both of which are on track to share with our community within the next two months.”

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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