TikTok apologises for temporary removal of video on Muslims in China

Reuters | Thursday, 28 November 2019

Social media app TikTok apologised to a user on Thursday for removing a video that criticised China’s treatment of Muslims, blaming a “human moderation error” and saying the images had been restored within less than an hour.

The controversy over the video, viewed 1.6 million times, comes as TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, faces an inquiry by a US national security panel over its handling of personal data, while US lawmakers fear it may be censoring politically sensitive content.

In the video she posted last week, the user, who identifies herself as Feroza Aziz, gave a tutorial on eyelash curling, while talking about how Muslims were being treated, and saying she wanted to spread awareness of the situation.

But on Twitter this week she said she had been blocked from posting on TikTok for a month, and on Wednesday posted that her viral video had been taken down, only to be restored later.

The video was offline for 50 minutes, TikTok said on its website.

“We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part,” said Eric Han, the app’s US 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.”

The TikTok user did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for additional comment.

China’s foreign ministry said it had no specifics of the case, when queried by Reuters about the incident on Wednesday.

But it added that it required Chinese firms to operate in a way that respected international norms and local laws and regulations, and hoped that relevant countries also provided a fair and non-discriminatory environment.

TikTok is not available in China, but ByteDance has a domestic version called Douyin.

The user did not mention Uighurs in the video, but said later on Twitter she had been referring to the minority ethnic group.

United Nations experts and rights groups estimate more than a million Uighurs and members of other ethnic groups have been detained in camps in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, which has triggered international condemnation.

China says the camps are re-education and training centres.