On November 27, Wednesday, Chinese-owned social media video app TikTok admitted to an error in having blocked Feroza Aziz, a 17-year-old American who had posted content critical of China’s policies towards Muslims in Xinjiang.
TikTok apologized to Ms Aziz, and pledged that access to her account would be restored. Furthermore, the company added that they would be evaluating their policies in the light of Ms Aziz’ concerns of having been censored on the platform, which is one of the fastest-growing sites today, as it is enormously popular with young people.
However, Ms Aziz was far from happy with the apology.
In an interview with The Washington Post (WP), Ms Aziz said, “TikTok is trying to cover up this whole mess. I won’t let them get away with this.”
The US teen tweeted on November 25 a photo that showed she had been blocked from the app, having received the following notice: “Your account is temporarily suspended due to multiple violations of our Community Guidelines.”
— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 25, 2019
Ms Aziz had shared a video satire encouraging people to research the conditions of Muslims in detention camps in China, which may not have gone over well with the owners of TikTok, China-based tech conglomerate, Bytedance.
Bytedance, however, has emphasized lately that the company’s operations in the US are independent from the strict censorship rules in China.
According to TikTok, Ms Aziz had been penalized for an earlier clip she had shared on another account, that had a photo of Osama bin Laden included. This, the company said, violated community standards against terrorist content, WP reports. Therefore, action was taken by TikTok to block Ms Aziz’ device, which barred her from access to any of her other accounts.
The company also added that Ms Aziz’ China videos stayed within community standards, had not been taken down and had been viewed over 1,000,000 times.
Ms Aziz shared the video that TikTok found objectionable to WP, which was a satirical video about dating but had been misinterpreted to have terrorist content, according to the teen.
On November 27, when the company said they had restored Ms Aziz access to her accounts on her device, TikTok added that the video about China had been taken down for a little less than an hour due to a “human moderation error.”
According to the head of safety at TikTok, Eric Han, “We acknowledge that at times, this process will not be perfect. Humans will sometimes make mistakes, such as the one made today in the case of @getmefamouspartthree’s video.
When those mistakes happen, however, our commitment is to quickly address and fix them, undertake trainings or make changes to reduce the risk of the same mistakes being repeated, and fully own the responsibility for our errors.”
Ms Aziz remained unconvinced by this explanation, tweeting on November 27, “Do I believe they took it away because of an unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No.”