Chinese social media platform, TikTok, reportedly restricted the reach of videos uploaded by disabled, overweight and LGBTQ users in an apparently misguided attempt to protect them from being cyber-bullied. The news is believed to have been first reported by Netzpolitik, which says the policy was supposed to protect ‘vulnerable’ users who the company believed were at a high risk of being bullied online.
According to the report, TikTok resorted to ‘unusual’ means to make these videos stay out of people’s feeds. The company reportedly instructed its moderators to mark videos of people with disabilities and limit their reach. Gay and overweight people, as well as those with facial deformities or visible signs of Down’s Syndrome, were placed in a list of users who are ‘highly vulnerable to cyber-bullying’, thereby capping the reach of their videos regardless of the content.
Netzpolitik says that the information comes from insider sources with direct knowledge of the matter. Documents obtained by the blog shows that the company’s official content-moderation guidelines had a whole section devoted to protecting users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition”. According to the memo, videos of such users should always be considered as a risk and their reach on the platform should be limited for their own good.
TikTok has been embroiled in one controversy after another ever since it burst into the scene globally a couple of years ago and, was even banned in India for a limited time because of the pervasiveness of adult content. However, nothing has been able to slow down the app from becoming one of the biggest social media platforms for young people not just in China, but around the world, including India, the US and Europe.