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TikTok user blocked after posting video about detention camps in China

Author: Raymond Zhong, New York Times, Published on: 2 December 2019

“TikTok Blocks Teen Who Posted About China’s Detention Camps”, 26 November 2019

The app faced renewed questions about whether it censors material after it removed an American’s video about Muslims in China.

The teenage girl, pink eyelash curler in hand, begins her video innocently: “Hi, guys. I’m going to teach you guys how to get long lashes.”

After a few seconds, she asks viewers to put down their curlers. “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,” she says…

… The 40-second clip has amassed more than 498,000 likes on TikTok, a social platform where the users skew young and the videos skew silly.

But the video’s creator, Feroza Aziz, said… that TikTok had suspended her account after she posted the clip. That added to a widespread fear about the platform: that its owner, the Chinese social media giant ByteDance, censors or punishes videos that China’s government might not like.

A ByteDance spokesman, Josh Gartner, said Ms. Aziz had been blocked from her TikTok account because she used a previous account to post a video that contained an image of Osama bin Laden. This violated TikTok’s policies against terrorist content, Mr. Gartner said, which is why the platform banned both her account and the devices from which she was posting…

Ms. Aziz, a 17-year-old Muslim high school student in New Jersey, said in an email… that her TikTok videos tried to make light of the racism and discrimination she experienced growing up in the United States…

“I think that TikTok should not ban content that doesn’t harm anyone or shows anyone being harmed,” Ms. Aziz said…

In recent months, United States lawmakers have expressed concerns that TikTok censors video content at Beijing’s behest and shares user data with the Chinese authorities.

The head of TikTok, Alex Zhu, denied those accusations in an interview with The Times… Mr. Zhu said that Chinese regulators did not influence TikTok in any way, and that even ByteDance could not control TikTok’s policies for managing video content in the United States…

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