TikTok under fire for hiding videos of 'overweight and disabled users'

Cheryl Sanders
December 4, 2019

TikTok has said in recent weeks that it stores its U.S. user data within the country and does not censor political content in line with Beijing's instructions.

Short video app TikTok is being criticized for content moderation policies that limited the reach of videos from users deemed susceptible to cyberbullying including those with disabilities, Netzpolitik.org reported.

The moderators were told to prevent the clips of vulnerable users from appearing in the app's main video feed once they had reached between 6,000 to 10,000 views, said the report.

Users that were considered vulnerable included those with facial disfigurements, autism, and Down syndrome, though the report showed that a wider swathe of users were affected including LGBT and overweight individuals. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses "national security risks".

"We desire TikTok to be a position where everyone can safely and freely insist themselves, and we hang prolonged since changed the policy in favour of extra nuanced anti-bullying insurance policies".

Per the Daily Beast, which first reported on the the suit, the complaint also says Musical.ly (an app that merged with TikTok in August 2018) also secretly scooped up such user data as location, age, phone numbers, and browsing histories, then allegedly sent that data to servers in China. "This was never created to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend", a TikTok spokesman said.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by college student Misty Hong against TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

The lawsuit accuses the company of "surreptitiously" taking content without user consent.

In November, the app hit 1.5 billion downloads worldwide, outperforming Instagram. "Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the USA and brief Congress on these findings". ByteDance, the Beijing-based company behind TikTok, is facing charges for harvesting user data without notice or consent and sending it back to China. The Guardian has also stated that TikTok is enforcing policies that are directed by the Chinese Government, meant to restrict certain types of contents and speech that could bring out truth statements and conditions and affect the popularity of the government.

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