Social media platform TikTok has said it is strengthening its enforcement against hate – including anti-LGBT+ content.
It comes after the social media giant faced criticism for restricting LGBT+ content. Last month it emerged TikTok was stopping the spread of LGBT+ and plus-sized content in some areas.
Now it says it will try to ‘understand the context behind content’. This, a spokesperson says, will avoid it ‘taking down TikToks where LGBTQ+ or other minority communities have reclaimed a word for empowerment’.
In a further sign of the complexity of policing hate online, it will also try to understand what haters are saying in more depth.
The spokesperson said the platform will ‘take additional steps to stem the spread of coded language and symbols which can normalise hateful speech and behaviour’.
Moreover, TikTok added that it hopes to tackle a wide range of hate. This includes ‘fascist, white-supremacist, male-supremacist, antisemitic, anti-Muslim, antiziganist [prejudice against Romani people], anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-migrant ideologies’.
Removing ‘conversion therapy’ content
TikTok says it already removes hate speech from neo-Nazis and white supremacists. However, it will now ‘remove neighbouring ideologies, such as white nationalism, white genocide theory’ and ‘male supremacy’.
Meanwhile the platform promises a further crackdown on ‘hurtful stereotypes about Jewish, Muslim and other communities’.
In particular, it will remove misinformation about ‘notable Jewish individuals and families who are used as proxies to spread antisemitism’.
Meanwhile, when it comes to LGBT+ people, the social media app’s new policy states:
‘We’re also removing content that is hurtful to the LGBTQ+ community by removing hateful ideas, including content that promotes conversion therapy and the idea that no one is born LGBTQ+.’
Many countries are trying to ban ‘conversion therapy’ – or attempts to ‘cure’ LGBT+ people of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Global medical and psychological bodies have condemned the ‘therapies’ saying they never work and are often dangerous.
Abuse or empowerment
TikTok’s new policy statement also highlights one challenge they face.
In some cases, LGBT+ people and others ‘reclaim’ a hateful word and use it to empower themselves. One example is ‘queer’. Often a term of abuse, an increasing number of LGBT+ people proudly identify as ‘queer’.
TikTok says: ‘If a member of a disenfranchised group, such as the LGBTQ+, Black, Jewish, Roma and minority ethnic communities, uses a word as a term of empowerment, we want our enforcement teams to understand the context behind it and not mistakenly take the content down.
‘On the other hand, if a slur is being used hatefully, it doesn’t belong on TikTok.
‘Educating our enforcement teams on these crucial distinctions is ongoing work, and we strive to get this right for our community.’
The platform concludes:
‘As we’ve said before, our end goal is to eliminate hate on TikTok, and although this might seem like a tall mountain to climb, we’re ready for the challenge.’
Shadowbans on LGBT+ content
Last month the video-sharing app apologized for suppressing some LGBT+ content.
The apology came after research indicated it stopped content, such as videos showing men holding hands, going viral in some countries. It became clear the app had ‘shadowbans’ on some LGBT+ hashtags in countries including Jordan, Russia and Bosnia.
In the end, a UK Parliament committee questioned TikTok’s director of public policy in Europe the Middle East and Africa, Theo Bertram.
He told them the platform restricted some gay and trans content, and videos from plus-size and disabled users, with good intentions. The plan was to prevent online bullying. However he admitted it was a ‘terrible idea’ and promised it would stop.