Video sharing app Tik Tok's local moderation guidelines ban pro-LGBT and other sensitive contents

Author: Alex Hern, The Guardian (UK), Published on: 29 September 2019

“TikTok's local moderation guidelines ban pro-LGBT content”, 26 Sep 2019

TikTok’s efforts to provide locally sensitive moderation have resulted in it banning any content that could be seen as positive to gay people or gay rights, down to same-sex couples holding hands, even in countries where homosexuality has never been illegal, the Guardian can reveal.

The rules were applied on top of the general moderation guidelines… which included a number of clauses that banned speech that touched on topics sensitive to China… ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, says the moderation guidelines were replaced in May.

As well as the general moderation guidelines… TikTok ran at least two other sets.

One, the “strict” guidelines, were used in countries with conservative moral codes, and contained a significantly more restrictive set of rules concerning nudity and vulgarity…

The other was a set of guidelines for individual countries, which introduced new rules to deal with specific local controversies – but also further restricted what can be shown…

 … the local guidelines also barred a host of behaviours which are both legal and accepted in Turkey.

And an entire section of the rules was devoted to censoring depictions of homosexuality. “Intimate activities (holding hands, touching, kissing) between homosexual lovers” were censored, as were “reports of homosexual groups, including news, characters, music, tv show, pictures”. Similarly blocked was content about “protecting rights of homosexuals (parade, slogan, etc.)” and “promotion of homosexuality”. In all those guidelines, TikTok went substantially further than required by law.

The country-specific guidelines took on a new relevance following the Guardian’s initial reporting on TikTok’s censorship, in which ByteDance said that the guidelines had been retired in May in favour of “localised approaches, including local moderators, local content and moderation policies, local refinement of global policies”…

In a statement, TikTok said it was “a platform for creativity, and committed to equality and diversity”. “Our platform has experienced rapid growth in Turkey and other markets… we have since made significant progress in establishing a more robust localised approach… ”

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