TikTok has issued an apology for removing a video criticising China's treatment of Muslims, amid censorship debate around the short-video app. TikTok has also pinned the entire blame on a 'human moderation error' for the 'temporary' removal of the video in question. TikTok said the video was restored within less than an hour. The controversy started with a TikTok video uploaded by a woman named Feroza Aziz.
In that video, Aziz pretended to give eyelash curling advice but in reality, she condemned China's crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang. Shortly after the video went viral attracting millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, Aziz complained that TikTok blocked her from posting videos on the platform. The issue led to a global debate around Chinese censorship on TikTok.
TikTok is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, one of the most valuable startups around the world. It is learnt that the video was down for 50 minutes.
"We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part,” said Eric Han, TikTok's U.S. head of safety. “Due to a human moderation error, the viral video from Nov. 23 was removed. It’s important to clarify that nothing in our community guidelines precludes content such as this video, and it should not have been removed."
Aziz later said on Twitter her account was restored.
UPDATE: tik tok has issued a public apology and gave me my account back. Do I believe they took it away because of a 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. pic.twitter.com/ehUpSJiyy1— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 27, 2019
TikTok has been accused of censoring content that may upset the Chinese government.
Last month, US Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to Treasury requesting a CFIUS review of the national-security implications of TIkTok, saying there is “ample and growing evidence” that TikTok is censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese government. In the letter, he said there had been questions about why the app had so few videos of the recent protests in Hong Kong.
Human rights groups and outside experts say more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been rounded up in a network of internment camps across the fractious region of Xinjiang. China, after initially denying the camps existed, describes them as vocational schools aimed at dampening the allure of Islamist extremism and violence through education and job training.
Recently, the U.S. government launched a national-security review of TikTok. Several senators have noted concerns about censorship and data collection on TikTok. ByteDance has clarified the Chinese government does not have any jurisdiction over TikTok content.
(With agency inputs)