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TikTok Blocks Teen Who Posted About China’s Detention Camps



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 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



Gordon Ramsay Talks ‘Uncharted’ Season 3, Getting Egged By Daughter On TikTok



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The Welsh TikTok stars with hundreds of thousands of fans from across the world




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When Wales first went into lockdown, many people picked up new hobbies. From crocheting to jogging, people found new ways to pass the time.

Some, however, took to TikTok, a video-sharing app – and found internet fame.

TikTok allows users to make short videos that are between 15 seconds and one minute long. Since its launch in 2016, the app has increased in popularity – as well as creating some niche online communities. This includes ‘Welsh TikTok’ – an area featuring Welsh creators that is growing in popularity. So much so, that some Welsh TikTokers are gaining millions of views and hundred of thousands of followers from across the globe.

One of them is Laura Orgill. She is a 27-year-old postwoman, who lives in the Rhondda with her partner Georgia. On TikTok, however, she has over 700,000 followers and has gained fame as the ‘TikTok postie.’

“I first got involved in TikTok during the first lockdown, I started off by just doing some of the trends in my house with my family as something to do. However, my TikTok journey really began when I went to work and started to show people the life of us key workers during a tough time,” she said.

“The first video to ever go viral was when a young person on my round asked me to do a socially distanced TikTok dance trend – which I adapted to my role as a postie, as I do with all of my TikToks. This then received 350k views within the first 12 hours. People loved to see what a postie gets up to day to day and also I think they liked to see what was actually going on outside in the world, as everyone was stuck at home.

“Seeing people’s reactions to my videos made me want to continue bringing people laughs and joy throughout such a tough time and it’s all spiralled out from there.”

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Before TikTok, Laura said she didn’t have much of a social media following, and said she never really had much interest in it.

“However, now I know how much of a positive impact I can make on people’s lives through social media, I’m very grateful that my following of just friends and family has now amounted to all of this,” she added.

Her videos have allowed Laura to show the public behind the scenes in her job.

Laura Orgill, who works for the Royal Mail, now has over 700,000 followers on TikTok.

“I absolutely love my job. I love working as a postie and without it I wouldn’t be the TikTok Postie,” she said.

Laura said the Royal Mail was “100% supportive” of her TikTok videos and even presented her with flowers, bought bacon baps for the whole office and donated £1,000 to Cancer Research UK when she was raising money for the charity through TikTok. Laura’s TikToks have led to her signing with a talent agency after she was approached at the end of last year. As well as being featured in Cosmopolitan, she has partnered with brands such as Snickers, Universal Music and Gymshark.

Her YouTube channel, ‘Laura and Georgia’, has also been verified, with Laura showing people inside her life with her partner.

“There is more to me than the TikTok postie believe it or not, so I can’t wait to share with everyone a crazy journey together outside of work. So who knows what the future holds.”

But Laura said the most exciting thing was meeting her followers when she was out and about.

“Now the restrictions are easing I am able to meet my following everywhere I go, where they stop me to have chats and photos. And this is what makes it all worthwhile seeing people so happy and positive from watching my silly videos. It’s like I suddenly have 700k new friends who know everything about me. They stop and chat to me in the street as if we’ve known each other forever, it’s crazy,” Laura continued.

“I’ll forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to positively impact other lives through my videos in such uncertain times. It has benefited not just myself but a lot of people who have struggled to get through this past year. I’ll always be grateful for the love and support that I have received.”

So what does she think of Welsh TikTok?

“I think Welsh TikTok is definitely on the rise, the Welsh do have such a particular sense of humour and I think Tiktok has given us a platform where we can use our humour to give people an insight into what us Welsh are actually all about.”

Another popular Welsh TikToker is Dean Morris, 26, from Llanelli. Under the TikTok name ‘Dheanasaur,’ he creates skits and comedy videos on the platform, gaining 80,000 followers in the last month alone. He now has over 285,000 followers on the platform.

Dean has been involved with filming – whether on screen or behind the camera – since 2007, but said he’d never had much success with it himself. His work was mostly based around helping creators from around the UK. He became involved with TikTok after it was recommended to him by a friend.

“He said, ‘Dean you’re really funny, you should jump on this new app. So I was like, ‘Ok, I’ll jump on and put a few funny skits on it just to pass the time.’ And then all of a sudden I started gaining followers on there,” he said.

Dean Morris, from Llanelli, started out making sketches with his nan on TikTok.

Dean had tried YouTube in the past, but had to use software and DSLR cameras to create content for the platform. With TikTok, he says it’s a lot easier to make videos.

“The ease of access with TikTok – you could film it all on your phone if you wanted and post it straight from there and the settings and features it has are a lot more user friendly,” he said.

Dean started to gain followers ‘heavily,’ but said that he had to credit one of his most popular videos to his Nana.

“One time there was a trend of people chucking glitter onto their phones, and then they were chucking orbeez onto their phones, and people started taking the mick and chucking different things onto their phones. My Nana saw that trend when we were watching TikTok videos and she was like ‘You should throw me onto the camera.’ Overnight, it got a steady 300,000 views.”

Before the pandemic, Dean worked in film doing work for BBC Sesh as well as freelance work, but now also earns some money through his TikTok videos.

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“TikTok doesn’t supply enough money but it’s a nice form of pocket money until they change their income to be more like YouTube. I personally don’t think people are getting paid enough for their incredible creations on TikTok, but you get some advertising campaigns which supply you with a bit more sustenance and money.”

Dean said the platform had allowed him to meet lots of new and funny people – soon, he will be moving to Cardiff with another Welsh TikToker he met on the platform.

“You try and not get into the idea of getting views, because that’s not what it should be about, but when you start getting millions of views on a video and then all of a sudden not that amount of views, it takes a toll on your mental health.”

Dean thinks Welsh TikTok is “incredible,” particularly because of the popularity of Wales as a filming location for TV and film.

“I think Wales is bleeding into the mainstream because of TikTok. I get loads of people commenting on my videos like ‘Oh I’m back in Welsh TikTok – yay, when they find me on their discovery page. It’s shown the audience that we’re a country of very creative people.”

Ellis Lloyd-Jones, 23, has also found fame on the platform – so much so that he gets recognised and approached in the street.

“I went to Ikea with my mam and my sister and this person came up to me saying ‘Oh my god, are you that boy from TikTok?’,” he said.

With over 180,000 followers and over 8 million likes across his videos, Ellis, from Treorchy, said his popularity rocketed overnight after posting a spoof video about ‘Welsh’ celebrities – taking big-name celebrities and changing their names to make them sound Welsh. It took him from 5,000 to 10,000 followers in just two weeks.

Another video of Ellis pretending to man a tollbooth welcoming viewers to Welsh TikTok – a virtual version of the old Severn Bridge tollbooth – won viewers from across the globe.

“I did it as a Welsh thing for Welsh people, thinking only they would see it but I got people from Australia and America and other countries. It was crazy,” he said.

Ellis started making TikToks in October, 2019, after seeing videos on his Instagram feed of people showing their Halloween transformations.

“I thought ‘You know what, that’s what I want to do.’ At the time, I had three costumes – Anne Boleyn from Six the Musical, Pugsley Addams and Harley Quinn, so I went with Harley Quinn.” Ellis has introduced more drag characters into his videos including the gates of hell receptionist, and, for the Welsh Government, Aunty Bac, who encouraged social media users to follow hygiene rules to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

Ellis Lloyd Jones has introduced a number of different drag characters on TikTok.

“I guess TikTok is like a full-time thing. I wouldn’t say it’s like a full-time job because I don’t earn a lot of money from it, but it is something that I’m on 24/7 thinking of ideas that I could do and interacting with my followers,” he said.

He has just finished his final year studying Welsh Language at Cardiff University, but has ambitions beyond TikTok for the future.

“I’m not going to give up on TikTok, because without TikTok I wouldn’t be where I am. But the idea is to move on a bit and get into the media world – but how to get there, I’m not sure.”

Ellis said his TikTok presence had given him confidence that he was doing something right.

“I’ve always been told that I’m either not good enough or this or that, so when I came to TikTok and saw that there were people that liked me I thought this is nice – people like what I like to do.”

Ellis’s videos have even led to him appearing on TV in the new BBC Three series, Young, Welsh and Bossin’ It.

“It’s nice to see a bit of Welsh representation on that app, because I see people being like ‘I didn’t know there were Welsh creators on here.’ It’s nice that we have our own little community on there with everyone that can relate with us and the stuff that we’re posting.”

As a first-language Welsh speaker, Ellis also encourages his followers to speak the language to him.

“It’s something that I love to see – people having conversations in Welsh in the comments. That’s something that I like to bring to TikTok, so I’ve started doing more videos in Welsh.”

Jessica Thomas, a full time travel agent from Ystrad Mynach, is also growing on the platform as a Welsh creator, with over 67,000 followers and over 1 million likes on the app.

She too downloaded TikTok as something to do during the first lockdown.

“I never intended on posting a video but here I am now,” she said.

Despite earning some money from the TikTok Creator Fund – an initiative that pays eligible TikTokers for their videos – as well as extra money from promotional videos, Jessica said she had no intention of giving up her job anytime soon.

“I will never be a full time social media influencer as I love my job too much to give it up.”

According to TikTok, the amount of money creators receive from the Creator Fund is determined “by a combination of factors.” These include the number of views on a video, the level of engagement, as well as making sure content is in line with their Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.

For Jessica, the best thing about her TikTok presence is being able to entertain people.

Jess Thomas says she’d never give up her job as a travel agent.

“I am a people-pleaser so I love to make people laugh with my content. The worst thing is the online trolls, some people have been really mean and have hurt my feelings with their comments but I have learned to reply to them by calling them out,” she said.

“Welsh TikTok is the best side of TikTok. When I started there were only a handful of us ‘Welsh TikTokers’ but now there are loads of us! It is important to me to educate as much as I can,” she continued.

And it’s not just people in their 20s who have found TikTok fame. Julie Griffiths, a 36-year-old Carmarthenshire mum, now has over 100,000 followers on her TikTok account where she posts comedy sketches about family life.

“It all started with the first lockdown – I’d heard about TikTok so I had a look. I didn’t think I was going to create anything, I was just looking at other people’s at first,” she said.

To overcome lockdown boredom, Julie started making videos with her family. When they got bored of making videos with her, she carried it on as a hobby – and has now amassed over 105,000 followers and millions of views. When not making TikToks, Julie works with children. Like her fellow Welsh creators, she has been able to make some money from her videos through the Creator Fund which allows her to get paid for her views.

“I only started it because I just wanted to make people laugh. It was a dark time for a lot of people and I enjoyed making people laugh, so I’ll just see how it goes really,” Julie said.

She said she had been able to make friends on the platform.

“The best [part about TikTok] is the community on there and the people I’ve connected with. I’ve got some good friends on there. The worst would be the trolls, but you’ve just got to be thick-skinned. They don’t bother me. [My family and friends] think I’m crazy. They never thought it would get so big – well, I didn’t. My husband is supportive and has come around to the idea of me TikToking now.”

From the growing number of TikTok creators and their popularity on the platform, it seems Wales isn’t short of creativity and humour.

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Homeless student becomes TikTok star with 10 million followers earning £3000 a month




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A drama student who is officially homeless has become one of Britain’s top TikTok stars with more than 10 million followers.

Ehiz Ufuah, 22, lives with his family in emergency accommodation after they fell on hard times and lost their council home 15 months ago.

Now his big ambition is to buy a house for his single mum, three sisters and two brothers after making a surprise breakthrough online – with a funny clip about doing the dishes.

Ehiz was stunned when it went viral – and now earns about £3,000 a month through the video-sharing platform. And he hopes his success might even help him achieve his ambition of being a Hollywood actor.

But all this looked like a pipe dream as the Greenwich University student and his family lost their council home in Romford, East London, and were temporarily moved into a Travelodge in January 2020.

Ehiz Ufuanh, TikTok infuencer

Ehiz was stunned when his video went viral on TikTok

Ehiz says he joined TikTok in February 2020 “to see what the hype was about”.

He posted a comic video of him pacing back and forth wondering whether to do the washing-up for his mum or leave it for his siblings – before racing to the sink as he hears her coming.

Ehiz was gobsmacked when it hit 750,000 views, saying: “I’d only had about three followers until then.

Ehiz Ufuah, 22, who is officially homeless

Ehiz has vowed to buy his mum and three sisters and two brothers a house to live in

“My family and friends were texting me, telling me I was famous. I couldn’t believe all the attention that video got me.”

Since then he has never looked back with his TikTok account’s popularity rocketing.

“I was in Primark last December and I had to be escorted out as too many people were crowding around me to get a picture,” says Ehiz. His growing profile was spotted by TikTok influencer agency Yoke Network.

In March he was invited to make a Big Brother-style show for YouTube with four other TikTok stars in a Surrey mansion.

Ehiz said: “It was an incredible experience, having a pool and movie theatre to enjoy. And while I didn’t make money from the show, it really raised my profile. I get recognised all the time in the street.”

Megan McKenna from The Only Way is Essex

Megan McKenna has reached out to the star

His videos have even been reposted on Instagram by some of the cast of Love Island. “Megan McKenna from The Only Way Is Essex has reached out to me,” he says. “But the person I was most starstruck by was supermodel Adut Akech.”

Now the drama student has his own dreams of stardom. He says: “I’ve always thought it would impossible to be a Hollywood actor but in recent years a lot of actors not from privileged backgrounds have made it.”

For now he’s content making £3,000 a month from the TikTok creator fund that helps users earn from videos and sponsorships.

Ehiz says: “The income is great but I’m not sure how long it’ll last. I’m still not in a position to buy property.

“One day I’d love to be able to buy my family a home. Miracles do happen.”

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