- 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.”
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)
Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat
Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.
Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.
Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere.
“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday.
“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”
In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.
According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.
Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?
As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”
For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.
“I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???” one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People.
“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”
According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”
Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media.
“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”
Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer
The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.
The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul
YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker.
While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career.
“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.
“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”
Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content.
“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”
Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury
The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December.
“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”
Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.