The popular video sharing app Tik Tok, according to a leaked document obtained by The Intercept, instructed moderators to reduce the posts made by users that they deemed poor, disabled, or ugly for their platform.
The videos on the app that were allegedly hidden had serious subjects like natural disasters, military movements, and threatening to national security.
However, the other videos were showing images associated with ‘fat people, rundown houses, rural poverty, slums, beer bellies, and crooked smiles’.
Moderators Given Clear Instructions about Allowed Content on TikTok
According to the documents, the moderators for the video app were given clear instructions on how to choose appropriate content for the feed, an algorithmic timeline which is first seen when the app is opened.
When you get featured on the ‘For You’ timeline, you can get a large amount of viewers; however, the criteria remain a secret and there’s scarce understanding of how the app’s automation works.
Moderators were given instructions to remove videos from the For You feed if they didn’t fit in the ‘right’ categories, including videos that contain abnormal body shapes (chubby, dwarfism, obese, too thin, etc.) or people with ugly facial features or deformities.
The documents also note that if the appearance of the character isn’t good, the video will be less attractive and unworthy of being shown to users.
What Did the App’s Representatives Have to Say?
A spokesperson for TikTok claims their purpose was to avert bullying and connected the document to a report from December, 2019 which showed that the company is reducing videos by vulnerable users in an effort to avert them from being bullied.
TikTok is owned by a tech unicorn in Beijing, Bytedance and they’ve been trying to divide their international efforts from China for almost a year.
However, most staff, including its moderators, is China-based.
The app has been successful in moderating their US content from outside China; however, they still rely on the Chinese moderators for numerous other countries.