Transgender users accuse TikTok of censorship

BBC Technology 12 Feb 2020 06:14
By Cristina Criddle Technology reporter
TikTok logo

Transgender users on TikTok have complained of censorship after their posts were removed.

Videos, including some of people discussing their lives, were taken down and others had the sound removed, according to some posters.

TikTok said some posts were deleted for breaking guidelines but could not explain why others were removed.

LGBT charity Stonewall said the action sent a damaging message to young trans people using the platform for support.

In a statement, the short-form video platform said: "TikTok is an inclusive space for positive and creative expression. We categorically do not remove any content on the basis of expression of gender identity.

"We have a vibrant and diverse community on TikTok: there are nearly two billion views of content under #trans and over 2.1 billion views of content under #lgbtq.

"We are proud to be a platform for positive and creative expression for our diverse community of users."

Image copyright Reice Hodges

"It makes me mad when my content is removed. There are some videos that I spend hours making… and to have one of those videos removed really discourages me," she told the BBC.

"To block something that can bring awareness to the trans community, when we already have so much hate and disgust coming toward us - where else are we supposed to go?"

Three users complained that their videos showing their transition in photographs were removed, although they were later able to repost them.

"I felt defeated. Nobody was seeing my content, nobody cared and there was nothing I could do," she told the BBC. "These apps censor LGBT creators who just want to spread positivity and help people but they can't because nobody will be able to see it."

"Removing content from trans people sends a damaging message, as young trans people often look online for support and community."

In December, the firm's moderators acknowledged videos made by disabled users were prevented from going viral, due to a policy it said was designed to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform.

Until just a few years ago, marginalised groups often felt silenced when the mainstream media did not reflect their experiences.

Today, some these groups have found their voice and built their own followings by sharing their experiences on social media.

For a seemingly young and friendly social media company to be accused of "silencing" trans voices will not come as a surprise to many LGBT people.

Trans lives are being debated internationally, often without trans people having a seat at the table - and there seems to be a generational divide when it comes to acceptance.

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