TikTok's secret censorship rules | Technology

The TikTok short video app is one of the most popular in the world.

The TikTok app It has been downloaded more than 1 billion times since 2017. In August it was the most downloaded app for both Android and iPhone worldwide. The Chinese ByteDance, creator of TikTok, became a year ago in the startup more valuable with 75,000 million dollars, then above Uber.

TikTok is a mass phenomenon that allows you to create funny and music videos with an average of about 15 seconds. Apart from its spectacular growth, TikTok stands out for two other relevant data: its users are teenagers or very young And it is the great Chinese success outside their country. It is available in more than 150 countries.

Why does a youth, music and hooligan app have problems of political censorship of its content?

Why does a youth, music and hooligan app have problems of political censorship of its content? The suspicion is because, as a Chinese company, you must follow the rules of your government. He Guardian just revealed the moderation rules of TikTok, which the company says it stopped using in May.

In the chapter on "hate speech and religion," TikTok suppressed criticism of Chinese socialism along with these other assumptions: "Critique of politics, social rules of any society, such as a constitutional monarchy, monarchy, parliamentary system, separation of powers , socialist system, etc. " In TikTok the models of states do not touch.

In his response to Guardian, Tiktok said those guidelines are "outdated" and that today they adopt "localized approaches, which include local moderators, local content and moderation policies, local refinement of global policies." THE COUNTRY asked TikTok to clarify what these "local content and moderation policies, local refinement of global policies" were. If these moderates and local adaptations exist, in TikTok they are not available. After more than 4 days they still do not respond to how they do that "local refinement of global policies".

From the company, they just send the link to the TikTok community rules. The only mention of a hypothetical censorship of socio-political content is this: "Users must also comply with local legislation." Does that indicate that TikTok will respect that in China it is a crime to remember the massacre of Tiananmen and in Spain it is not a crime to criticize the King? Will you allow Tiananmen videos for your Spanish users? And for Chinese users who live or travel abroad?

He Guardian too saw the content that TikTok prohibited in Turkey: it went from a Kurdish separatism, the father of the homeland, Ataturk, and the current president, Recep Tayip Erdogan. That list included alcohol consumption, appearances of "non-Islamic gods" or things like "intimate activities (shaking hands, touching, kissing) between gay lovers" or "information from gay groups" or content on "protecting the rights of the homosexuals. " Turkish local laws are not as restrictive as TikTok in its eagerness to ban.

Does the same thing happen if the controversy is with the Spanish Government or Catalan independence? It is not known. Large social networks balance their community rules to maneuver with their red lines, but at least the guidelines and sanctions are public. In TikTok no.

TikTok's secret censorship rules

A search for the hashtags #hongkong, #tiananmen or #tibet gives largely bland videos. The autocomplete search tool doesn't like these words either.

The operation of TikTok focuses on artificial intelligence. The app detects which videos you like the most and gives you more of those. It is the easiest way to have 20 minutes before the mobile. Do you want rap dances with a few horror jokes? Take rap dances and some scary video.

Social networks often have an acceptable excuse to kidnap our attention - and sell it to advertisers -: find out what happens, know what your friends are doing or see travel photos in unknown places. But TikTok has no pretensions, it is pure entertainment. They are calves: a mix of the old "First Videos" with a selection of homemade music videos with trendy music.

The importance of censorship in TikTok may be less important at the moment because political or controversial content does not emerge, although it may not emerge because it is covered by the company. This debate is important because TikTok can grow with its users and become a weapon of social rebellion. Although we may never know because their algorithms make the world that reflects TikTok one of the most bland and basic fun in the world.

What if it were in news?

But there is more. ByteDance also owns TopBuzz, a news aggregator app that uses artificial intelligence not to choose which funny video each user wants to see, but to offer you the global headlines that interest you most.

TopBuzz is another worldwide success born in China. Chartbeat, the company that measures traffic in most media, recently explained the growth of TopBuzz as a source of traffic: "In December 2018, TopBuzz was the origin of almost 34 million page views worldwide, 36 times more than in January 2017 ". Half of that traffic came from the United States, but it increased in countries such as Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

TikTok's secret censorship rules

Mobile news aggregator apps see their market share grow: TopBuzz grows 158% in 2019 and its Japanese competitor, SmartNews, 129%. They already send as much traffic to the media as Yahoo, a traditional origin.

TopBuzz prioritizes viral news of crazy events with sex and drugs, in addition to the interests of each user that their artificial intelligence promotes. TopBuzz does not create content, but if one day its success is even greater, how can we trust that it offers serious links to critical news for China or its allies?

The moderation of content of the large online networks will be one of the themes of the future. Facebook has just announced that it will not verify the veracity of what politicians say. He doesn't want to go into the garden to punish Donald Trump or Pedro Sánchez for lying. But what if they repeat with their words a false content that Facebook has already taken apart? Or if someone not very careful with the truth announces that they are running for elections, will Facebook stop subjecting them to the same standards as the rest?

It will be increasingly difficult to know why we see what they teach us and, above all, what we stop seeing.

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