India: TikTok accused of censorship, as user alleges 'shadow banning' of Muslim-Hindu unity content

Author: BBC, Published on: 3 February 2020

“Censorship claims emerge as TikTok gets political in India”, 31 January 2020

Ajay Barman...is a fading TikTok star in India...because - he alleges - he's been "shadow banned" for uploading videos on [the topic of] Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Shadow banning is the act of partially blocking content so it doesn't reach the platform's entire community of users. TikTok has traditionally shied away from political subjects, but Mr Barman built a strong following of just under a million by performing and uploading 15 second skits on the theme of Hindu-Muslim unity at a time when many in India fear the two communities are being driven further apart…

But over the past four months, TikTok India has been restricting the reach of his account...he says. TikTok India said it does not restrict any political content unless it violates its community guidelines. While the app does ban accounts for serious violations like pornography or hate speech, content it sees as a "lesser infringement" of its guidelines is left up on the app. [U]sers point to other evidence of people being blocked or "shadow banned" for political reasons by the app…

Tiktok told the BBC..."our guidelines are clear that political content is allowed on TikTok, as long as it does not include extremist content, such as hate speech...all users have the opportunity to appeal violations, which the user had not done in this case". The company, however, did not respond to Mr Barman's allegation that he had been "shadow banned"…

Free speech activists have also raised questions over the practice of shadow banning content on TikTok...

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