Feroza Aziz started her TikTok video like a typical makeup tutorial, telling viewers she would show them how to get long eyelashes. Then the 17-year-old stopped abruptly, calling instead on viewers to start researching the harrowing conditions facing Muslims in China’s detention camps.
The surprising bit of modern satire quickly went viral on TikTok, the short-video app and global phenomenon owned by a Beijing-based tech firm. But in the hours afterward, Aziz’s TikTok profile was suspended. By Tuesday, she told The Washington Post, she remained unable to access her account.
The videos, and Aziz’s suspension, have quickly touched off a public debate about one of the world’s fastest-growing social apps, including over its approach to political issues and its support of free speech in countries outside China, where its parent company ByteDance is headquartered.
The episode has highlighted a signature challenge facing TikTok: Famous for its lighthearted memes and singalong videos, the app increasingly finds itself facing scrutiny due to its close ties to a Chinese conglomerate that must adhere to the country’s strict censorship rules.
TikTok has said it makes decisions about the content it surfaces and suppresses for US users independent from the Chinese government. But its past practices and limited transparency have fueled deep skepticism among lawmakers, tech experts and some of its users.
The popularity of Aziz’s videos shows how TikTok has increasingly become a new home for discussion of politics and current events among young viewers on the Web. But the suspension has fueled concerns over how TikTok will respond to a growing level of acrimonious debate and discussion of issues critical of the Chinese government.
TikTok has said its audience prefers to use the video app for entertainment, not political debates, and that its executives have pushed to preserve the app as a refuge for positivity online. To abide by that mandate, former employees told The Post they were instructed to follow guidelines set by Chinese moderators and remove social or political content that would have been easily accepted elsewhere around the Web.
TikTok representatives said Tuesday that Aziz’s account was not suspended because of her criticism of China and that the company “does not moderate content due to political sensitivities.” Instead, they said she had broken the rules by registering a new account: A previous account of hers had been banned, they said, because she had posted a video referencing Osama bin Laden that had violated rules about promoting terrorist content.
Aziz, who said she is a high school junior in New Jersey, told The Post she never got any explanation about TikTok’s penalties on her account. The video TikTok referred to, she said, was an obvious bit of dark humor, and involved her singing in front of a series of a men that she suggested were attractive. A copy she shared with The Post shows bin Laden’s face appearing, for less than a second, as the surprise punchline.
“As Muslims, we’re ridiculed every day, so that was me making a joke to cope with the racism we face on a daily basis,” she said. “I’ve been told to go marry a terrorist, go marry bin Laden, so I thought: ‘Let me make a joke about this. We shouldn’t let these things get to us.'”
She said she found it “scary” that she was blocked for making what seemed to her like a harmless joke. And she said she felt it was “very suspicious” that her account was suspended only after she posted viral videos criticizing the home country of TikTok’s parent company.
Eric Han, the head of TikTok’s US Trust and Safety team, said in a statement to The Post that Aziz’s account was banned after the bin Laden post earlier this month. The app’s community guidelines, he said, strictly prohibit any videos that “promote and support” terrorist organizations.
Aziz’s lash-curling videos, which reference the camps in China’s Xinjiang region, can still be viewed on TikTok, where they have attracted more than 500,000 views. “TikTok does not moderate content due to political sensitivities and did not do so in this case,” Han said. Reviews of video for moderation can be triggered by several factors, Han said, including if a video passes certain “virality benchmarks.”
Aziz said late Tuesday she could not access the account, and that TikTok has provided her no information about whether she can use the service again. When TikTok users have videos removed for violating guidelines, Han said, they are not told the specific reason but can appeal the removal. “Her previous account was banned, so we wouldn’t have had communication with her on that account,” he added.
Aziz’s other videos on TikTok resemble many of the unrestrained, boundary-pushing parodies that often go viral on the Web. In other videos, she jokes about marrying her cousin, living with a strict Muslim mother, and being profiled online as a terrorist. In one video criticisng TikTok as “racist,” she said she posts “relatable Muslim content, things that Muslims can laugh at.”
Kate Klonick, an assistant professor at St John’s University School of Law who studies social media and free speech, said the incident illustrate the dangers when tech giants aren’t transparent about their practices – and aren’t regulated to be more forthcoming.
“It’s completely at the whim of these giant tech companies [as to] what they decide to tell us, and we have no way to fact check their account of things,” she said. “There’s no outside mechanism of enforcement.”
In doing so, though, Klonick said the struggle for an app such as TikTok is striking the right balance in what she described as the “paradox of content moderation.”
“We want to be protected from certain kinds of content . . . like terrorists using Osama bin Laden’s face to propagandize radical Islam,” she said. “But at the same time it’s critical to have access to that kind of bad content in order to critique it, or make fun of it, or tear it down, or use it to build culture.”
TikTok’s practices and its Chinese origins have raised alarms in Washington, where lawmakers and regulators fear Beijing’s heavy digital hand might affect Americans’ speech online and leave their personal data at risk.
Members of Congress led by Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, sought to grill top TikTok executives at a congressional hearing earlier this month, though the social-media app declined to appear, further stoking lawmakers’ ire.
TikTok, which traces its origins to ByteDance’s purchase of the karaoke app Musical.ly in 2017, also faces an investigation by an arm of the US government that reviews such mergers for potential national security concerns.
Federal lawmakers had encouraged such a probe, and they’ve asked US intelligence officials to open an additional investigation to determine if the Chinese government might be able to force TikTok to turn over American users’ data. TikTok has said that it stores such information in Virginia and Singapore.
Aziz said she used the makeup routine as a way to get the attention of viewers who might otherwise ignore the news. But she said she worries about how TikTok’s rules could influence the kinds of information young viewers see online.
The suspension, she said, is “just another reason for me to speak louder.”
© The Washington Post 2019
ByteDance lays off employees in India, months after TikTok’s ban in the country
- The company said that it was scaling down its employee size in India, as there has been no intimation from the government regarding a possible solution to the ban.
TikTokwas banned in late June by the Indian government in the middle of rising tensions at the India-China border.
- Even with all the ups and downs in its businesses across the globe,
Bytedancehas reportedly raked in $37 billion in revenue in 2020, including $7 billion in profit.
Chinese giant ByteDance has fired hundreds of employees in India, as the ban on Chinese apps including the company’s popular app TikTok remains banned in the country.
In an email to its employees on Wednesday morning, the company said that it was scaling down its employee size in India, as there has been no intimation from the government regarding a possible solution to the ban.
“We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived, and that we would be able to resolve this quickly. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case. Many of you have patiently waited to hear how this would play out, which has been very stressful. Thank you for your continued belief and trust in us,” wrote TikTok CEO Vanessa Pappas and VP of Global Business Blake Chandlee in an email to India employees today, as reported by
TikTok was banned in late June by the Indian government, as were 58 other Chinese apps in the middle of rising tensions at the India-China border. Soon after, over hundred other Chinese apps were banned in the country over privacy and data concerns.
“We have worked steadfastly to comply with the Government of India order issued on June 29, 2020. We continually strive to make our apps comply with local laws and regulations and do our best to address any concerns they have. It is therefore disappointing that in the ensuing seven months, despite our efforts we have not been given a clear direction on how and when our apps could be reinstated. It is deeply regretful that after supporting our 2000+ employees in India for more than half a year, we have no choice but to scale back the size of our workforce. We look forward to receiving the opportunity to relaunch TikTok and support the hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers in India,” said a TikTok spokesperson.
Not just in India, TikTok saw complications in its business in India as former US President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app unless the company sold off its business to an American company – which it was eventually to Walmart and Oracle.
However, even with all the ups and downs in its businesses across the globe, Bytedance has
reportedly raked in $37 billion in revenue in 2020, including $7 billion in profit.
Old vehicle owners may have to pay up to ₹3,800 per year as ‘Green tax’
CAG is hiring more than 10,000 accountants and auditors around the country
YouTube says its TikTok competitor is getting 3.5 billion views a day in India test run
Susan Wojcicki, chief executive officer of YouTube.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
YouTube’s short-form video feature Shorts, which aims to compete with TikTok, is achieving 3.5 billion views per day during its early test run in India, the company said Tuesday.
YouTube does not reveal detailed statistics for the service overall, but has said that 2 billion logged-in users visit every month, and that people watch a billion hours of video on the service every day.
The company unveiled an early beta of Shorts in India in September. Shorts will be part of the YouTube app and looks a lot like TikTok, with an option to add music, change the speed of the video and more. But video length is capped at just 15 seconds. TikTok videos can be up to a minute long.
Wojcicki also said the following in her letter:
- Regulation will be a significant focus in 2021. She noted that there’s been a lot of talk about reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from liability for the content that their users post, but also noted that Democrats and Republicans in Congress differ on what should be done.
- The fastest-growing “screen” for YouTube viewership is the TV.
- E-commerce is a growing focus for YouTube as well, and the company is beta-testing a program with creators in the beauty and electronics spaces to make it easier for consumers to buy the products they see in videos.
- Over the last three years, the company has paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and media companies.
- This year, the company will start asking creators in the U.S. on a voluntary basis to provide it with their gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. The goal is to ensure fair treatment for creators of different backgrounds when it comes to search results and monetization opportunities.
TikTok ‘saves woman’s life’ after strange message found outside home
A woman claims her TikTok followers “saved her life” after she found a message written in snow outside her home.
Jade Jules, 27, from Newfoundland in Canada, took to the social media app on January 12 to ask viewers what the symbols meant after noticing the writing while taking out her garbage.
“This on the top of my garbage bucket,” she says in the video.
“What the f*** does that mean?”
The message written in snow reads: “1F”.
People on TikTok respond with disturbing theory
While Ms Jules couldn’t figure it out a number of her TikTok followers floated a theory.
“You’re being watched,” one woman wrote.
Viewers believed the “1F” might be a way of indicating “one female” lived in Ms Jules’s abode and several demanded she call the police.
“They are telling people who are supposed to rob you or whatever that you live alone,” another woman wrote.
Others reacted in horror.
“I’m a man and this scared me,” one man wrote.
‘I’m thankful’: Woman moves in with mum
While it’s not exactly clear if she has been targeted by criminals, Ms Jules said in a separate TikTok video police wiped the message off her bin and told her to “stay safe”.
She told the Metro she’s since moved in with her mum.
“I thought people on TikTok would know and help me, which they did. I’m very thankful for everyone who helped me,” she told the paper.
“My followers definitely saved my life… I had zero clue on what it meant.”
Ms Jules has now installed surveillance equipment at her how and is planning to move back into it with her mum.
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