TikTok Responds To Censorship Claims After Viral Beauty Tutorial
Social media app TikTok has hit back at claims it censored a teenager, who was locked out of her account days after posting a beauty tutorial which criticised China's detention of Uyghur Muslims.
TikTok came under fire after 17-year-old Feroza Aziz claimed she was censored for condemning the detention of close to one million Uyghur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region in a video disguised as a beauty tutorial.
In the video, Aziz accused China of setting up "concentration camps" and "throwing innocent Muslims in there".
Chinese authorities have denied running detention camps instead saying they are "vocational education and training centres" which are used to combat extremism and terrorism.
However, claimed detainees have reported undergoing political indoctrination with Chinese Communist Party ideals, flag-raising ceremonies and being forced to learn Mandarin-Chinese.
Aziz's beauty tutorial begins innocently, with the teenager curling her eyelashes, a few seconds into it she changes her tune to encourage her viewers to read up on what is happening in China.
"So, the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes obviously," Aziz said in the video, which was originally uploaded to TikTok.
"Then, you're gonna put them down and use the phone you're using right now to search what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there ... This is another Holocaust, yet no one is talking about it," she claimed.
TikTok then advised Aziz that her account was suspended due to violation of community guidelines.
But TikTok, developed by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, claimed the teenager was banned from the app because of another video she posted that moderators felt violated its policies.
The company said Aziz was locked out of her account after posting an image of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, violating their "ban on content that includes imagery related to terrorist organisations".
bin Laden is shown at the end of a video in which the teenager compares white celebrity crushes she had when she was younger with Muslim crushes she has now.
"It was a dark humour joke that he was at the end because obviously no one in their right mind would think or say that," Aziz told BuzzFeed.
TikTok told 10 daily it doesn't remove content based on political sensitivities and that the beauty tutorial videos on Aziz's other account @getmefamouspartthree were not affected and continue to receive views.
The incident comes a month after US Congress questioned the potential security threat of the Chinese-owned app.
Politicians raised concerns that the app could be used as a soft power tool to influence users' views on issues and harvest their valuable personal data.
"China has shown that it is motivated to get as much data on people from other countries to inform its intelligence sector," Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the International Cyber Policy Centre said.
"When an intelligence service is able to have all this information about people's private lives it gives them leverage and they're able to manipulate and blackmail people," he said.
Cybersecurity experts also worry the app may be censoring users and removing content that is against China's national interest.
Critics have highlighted the lack of videos on the app that show Hong Kong's protests despite the event reaching global headlines.
But others responded that videos on the app have shown the brutal treatment of Uyghur Muslims, despite them receiving far fewer views.
Ryan told 10 daily that apps like TikTok don't have to delete videos to hide them from users.
"One of the problems with trying to figure out if there is censorship on TikTok is that there's a powerful algorithm undergirding it," Ryan said.
"They can always say videos haven't been deleted but it doesn't mean the algorithm hasn't decided they're not going to be shown to anyone at all," Ryan said.
Meanwhile, Aziz told BuzzFeed she is happy that she was able to raise awareness of the Uyghurs plight in China.
"As a Muslim girl, I’ve always been oppressed and seen my people be oppressed, and always I’ve been into human rights," she told BuzzFeed.
She tweeted earlier that China is "terrified of the news spreading" and that she's been blocked from posting to the platform for a month.
"This won't silence me," she added.
10 daily has contacted Feroza Aziz for comment.
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