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TikTok Hid Disabled Users’ Videos in an Attempt to Prevent Bullying

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  • After a report from German online media outlet Netzpolitik, TikTok confirmed that it prevented videos from disabled, LGBTQ, and overweight users from appearing internationally or, in some cases, on the main feed in an attempt to prevent bullying. 
  • The list of creators moderators looked out for included users with facial disfigurement, autism, down syndrome, and “disabled people or people with some facial problems such as a birthmark, slight quint and etc.”
  • TikTok said it was a temporary policy that it nows realizes was the wrong choice, despite its “good intentions.”
  • The company has since changed its anti-bullying policy, but users were shocked to learn that content was at one point being treated differently for some users.

TikTok Limited Content from Disabled Users

TikTok confirmed that it used a policy that limited videos posted by disabled users in order to prevent bullying. 

According to a report released Monday by German online media outlet Netzpolitik, documents from TikTok show that it deemed these users highly vulnerable to bullying on the platform. Because of this, it designated their videos to be “Risk 4,” which means the videos could only be viewed in the country it was posted from.

Users who were considered by TikTok to be “particularly vulnerable” saw even tighter restrictions. Moderation teams in Berlin, Bejing, and Barcelona tagged content from these users “Auto R” after hitting between 6,000 and 10,000 views. So, once these videos hit a certain number of views, they landed in the “not recommend” category, meaning they can no longer appear on the app’s For You Feed. 

While Netzpolotik did not say whether or not this fell under the same specific policy, their report said that this “Auto R” tag applied to more users as well. There was also a list of “special users” whose content was limited to the same extent.  While some on that list did use hashtags like #disability in their posts, Netzpolitik says it extended to “users who are simply fat and self-confident” and many who depected “a rainbow flag in their biographies or describe themselves as lesbian, gay or non-binary.”

What Did the Policy Say?

TikTok citing the effects of bullying as the reasoning behind this policy.

“Bullying has been proven to cause severe emotional and physical distress, especially in minors,” a screenshot of their policy stated. “Content of subjects likely to incite cyberbullying will be allowed but marked with risk tag 4.”

Screenshot via Netzpolitik.com

As for what moderators were meant to look for specifically, they described vulnerable users as a “Subject who is susceptible to bullying or harassment based on their physical or mental condition.” 

A list of examples included facial disfigurement, autism, down syndrome, and “disabled people or people with some facial problems such as a birthmark, slight quint and etc.”

Netzpolitik noted, however, that some of these cases may not always be obvious. How is a moderator supposed to recognize whether someone has a disorder from the autistic spectrum based on 15 seconds of video?” their report asks. 

The outlet also spoke to sources at TikTok, one of whom said they tried to bring up the inherent flaws of this practice, but their critiques were “dismissed by the Chinese decision-makers.”

“The rules were mainly handed down from Beijing,” the report said, noting that TikTok is operated by Chinese company Bytedance. 

Another TikTok source told Netzpolitik that while it continued until at least September, this was never meant to be a permanent policy. 

“This approach was never intended to be a long-term solution and although we had a good intention, we realised that it was not the right approach,” the source said. 

Users Upset with TikTok

Many users were upset that TikTok used this practice to address bullying, as it censored users who had not violated any rules on the platform. One user suggested it work harder to stop bullies instead of silencing those who might fall victim to it.

Another suggested that decreasing the visibility of disabled users would not make anyone less likely to be abusive towards them. 

TikTok made further statements on this policy.

“We have since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections,” they said. “We continue to grow our teams and capacity and refine and improve our policies, in our ongoing commitment to providing a safe and positive environment for our users.”

This is not the first time TikTok has come under fire for censoring its users recently. Last week, it banned a teenager who posted a video critical of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. The company claimed the ban had nothing to do with this video, and happened partially because of a human moderation error and because of content posted on an old account linked to the user’s phone. 

Feroza Aziz, the user in question, did not believe that answer. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Verge) (BBC)

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Twitch Sues Two Users for Creating Hate Raid Bots That Targeted Black and LGBTQ+ Streamers

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Twitch said the two users were so relentless in their racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ hate raids that they forced some creators to stop streaming.


Twitch Sues Two Users

Twitch has filed a lawsuit against two of its users for allegedly creating hate raid bots that targeted Black and LGBTQ+ streamers with racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ content. 

The users named in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, are CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose. While their legal names are currently unknown, Twitch said it traced one to the Netherlands and the other to Austria. It added that it will amend the suit to include their real names once it learns them. 

Twitch said both users began using bots to flood streamers’ chats with hate-filled messages in August. Despite multiple suspensions and bans, Twitch said the two continually created new accounts to continue their hate raid crusades. 

According to the lawsuit, CruzzControl operated nearly 3,000 bots that were used to spam the discriminatory and harassing content. Meanwhile, CreatineOverdose used “their bot software to demonstrate how it could be used to spam Twitch channels with racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the KKK.”

Twitch didn’t just stop at accusations of hateful actions and rule-breaking. It even claimed the two users were so forceful in their efforts to attack creators that they pressured some to stop streaming altogether, “eliminating an important source of revenue for them.”

Twitch Users Demand Change

Twitch creators have long complained about hate raids, but a number of small creators began organizing a cohesive movement in early August following what appeared to be a growing number of hate raids. 

Many demanded that Twitch address the situation by holding round tables with affected creators and enabling different features that would give them the ability to shut down incoming raids. Critics also called on the platform to provide detailed information about how it plans to protect creators moving forward. While Twitch did promise to implement fixes, a large portion of users weren’t satisfied with its messaging. 

The bulk of users’ efforts culminated on Sep. 1 when various creators participated in #ADayOffTwitch, a one-day walkout designed to reduce traffic on the platform. 

Despite Twitch’s lawsuit, a number of users have still said they won’t be completely satisfied with the platform’s actions until more is accomplished. For now, their primary goal is to have Twitch directly outline what steps it’s taking to prevent hate raids.

In its lawsuit, Twitch does make a cursory mention of several changes it said it’s introduced recently, including “implementing stricter identity controls with accounts, machine learning algorithms to detect bot accounts that are used to engage in harmful chat, and augmenting the banned word list.”

“Twitch mobilized its communications staff to address the community harm flowing from the hate raids and assured its community that it was taking proactive measures to stop them,” it added. “Twitch also worked with impacted streamers to educate them on moderation toolkits for their chats and solicited and responded to streamers’ and users’ comments and concerns.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BuzzFeed News) (Kotaku)

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Streamers Protest Racist and Homophobic Hate Raids With #ADayOffTwitch

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The creators participating in the walkout want Twitch to implement policies that actively combat hate-raiding.


#ADayOffTwitch

Numerous Twitch streamers went dark on the platform Wednesday as part of a movement called #ADayOffTwitch, which participants have described as a way to stand “in solidarity with marginalized creators under attack by botting & hate-raids.” 

The protest was organized last month after a smaller creator by the name of RekItRaven, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns, had their streams flooded with racist messages twice.  

“This channel now belongs to the KKK,” dozens of users commented during the streams. 

Source: @RekItRaven

For RekItRaven, those messages also came at a particularly disparaging time, as they had just finished talking about how several traumatic experiences had shaped their life. 

Following the stream, RekItRaven began using #TwitchDoBetter, saying, “I love Twitch. I love the community that I built there… BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE TO ACCEPT BEING TREATED LIKE SHIT ON THE PLATFORM.”

Soon, RekItRaven’s concerns gained traction, prompting a number of other smaller creators to step forward with their experiences about being on the receiving end of hate-raids. Eventually, that morphed into Tuesday’s #ADayOffTwitch protest, which has been spearheaded by RekItRaven and two other small creators known as ShineyPen and Lucia Everblack.

Protesters’ Demands

The protesters are demanding that Twitch make several concessions moving forward. Those demands include the platform:

  • Holding round-tables with affected creators to assist with the creation of tools that combat abuse on the platform.
  • Enabling creators to select the account age for prospective chatters.
  • Allowing creators the ability to deny incoming raids.
  • Removing the ability to attach more than three Twitch accounts to one email address since hate-raiders can currently use a single email to register unlimited accounts. 
  • Providing transparency into the actions being taken to protect creators, including giving a timeframe for that implementation.

For its part, Twitch has already promised to implement fixes, saying on Aug. 20, “Hate spam attacks are the result of highly motivated bad actors, and do not have a simple fix.”

“We’ve been building channel-level ban evasion detection and account improvements to combat this malicious behavior for months,” it added. “However, as we work on solutions, bad actors work in parallel to find ways around them—which is why we can’t always share details.” 

However, for now, creators must still deal with potentially being hate-raided while streaming, which is why their anger toward Twitch has persisted.

Do Small Creators Have a Big Enough Voice?

The protest led by mostly smaller creators is also almost entirely composed of them. Because of this, the vacuum of silence from large creators, who hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the platform, has also led to frustration.

Many have pointed out that large creators will publicly show their support for minority causes during events such as Black History Month and Pride Month, but smaller users said they feel abandoned when those same creators don’t also actively participate in causes that directly combat minority hate. 

“Nobody gives a fuck if you take the day off. Nobody knows who you are That’s the truth,” streamer Asmongold, who has 2.4 million followers on Twitch, on a stream last month. “If people got together and they said, we’re all going to collectively do it, I would do it in a heartbeat. Right, I would do it. I’ve got no problem because I do believe in power in numbers, I absolutely do, which is why I don’t believe in this. Like, you can’t get a bunch of 20 Andy’s together and think that you’re going to do anything. Nobody gives a fuck.”

That said, some influential streamers have added their voices to #ADayOff Twitch. For example, both Rhymestyle and Meg Turney participated in Tuesday’s protest; however, both creators have hundreds of thousands of more followers outside of Twitch rather than on it. 

A number of smaller creators have also argued that it’s not feasible for them to take a day off even though they want to support the cause. For example, taking a day off could jeopardize them keeping their affiliate or partner status, which could, in turn, jeopardize their channels.

Meanwhile, others have argued that outcomes such as those are exactly what hate-raiders want to achieve, so logging off Twitch for a day could be playing into their hands. 

Others still said they wanted to participate but are contractually obligated to stream every day either because of sponsorships or other deals.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (NBC News)

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CallMeCarson Announces Return to Streaming Following Grooming Allegations

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In his return announcement, the YouTuber promised to donate 100% of his proceeds to charity in hopes that he can turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive.” 


CallMeCarson Returns

Popular “Minecraft” YouTuber and streamer Carson King, known online as CallMeCarson, announced Wednesday that he will return to streaming following accusations he faced earlier this year of grooming and sexting underage fans.

In a video titled “Moving Forward,” King said he would begin streaming on Twitch again on Sept. 1 as part of what he is calling a “Year of Charity.” For the next 12 months, King plans to donate 100% of his proceeds to different charities, selecting a new one each month. 

“Before you start looking at this as an excuse to sweep things under the rug, that’s not what this is,” he explained in his video. “I’m doing this to turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive that can help a lot of people.” 

King did not address the details of the allegations that have been levied against him. Instead, he said he wanted to focus on what he can do in the future. 

“I’ve learned a lot this past year,” King said. “I’m not seeking forgiveness nor am I looking to make excuses.”

Grooming Allegations Made Against CallMeCarson

In January, members of his YouTube group The Lunch Club told “DramaAlert” that in March of 2020, King had admitted to grooming underage fans. They claimed to not know many details but stated that his confession ultimately led to the group disbanding. One former member, known as “Slimecicle,” even said he reported Carson to authorities.

The victims themselves ended up coming forward online. One, who identified herself as Sam, said Carson sent her sexually suggestive messages in 2019 when he was 19 and she was 17. She also posted Discord messages the two exchanged where King said he could not “control” himself and asked when she turned 18. 

Another girl, who went by CopiiCatt, said King sent her nude photos when she was 17 and he was 20. 

Following this, King took a hiatus online, and now, his return has been met with mixed reactions.

His “Moving Forward” video has been viewed over 1.2 million times, receiving 252,000 likes and just 14,000 dislikes. 

On Twitter, however, more people expressed frustration with his return and were upset by the swell of support for King despite the accusations against him. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Dot Esports) (HITC)

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