Other the last day or so, a TikTok “makeup tutorial” video that was actually a call for viewers to investigate the detention of Uighur Muslims in China went viral on and off the platform. However, as The Guardian and others reported, TikTok temporarily banned the account of the teenager who created the video. According to her, this isn’t the first time the platfom has tried to censor her account for speaking about the issue.
This evening, as much of the US heads into a holiday weekend, TikTok offered a public apology and detailed timeline of events, where it claims that the ban was not related to the topic of this video. To summarize, the company’s version of events is that two weeks ago her earlier account was banned for a satirical video that featured an image of Osama Bin Laden as it violated “strict” policies against terrorist figures. Then, after the Uighur/eyebrow curling video, a separate sweep banning devices tied to accounts that had already been banned had the effect of locking her out of her new account. Then a “human moderation error” resulted in the video going offline for around 50 minutes.
It’s a detailed explanation that for some will be hard to believe. Feroza, the teenager who made the video, tweeted “do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No.” The incident also occurs as US regulators are looking into TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, and its connections to the Chinese government. According to report today from Reuters, ByteDance has made efforts to separate TikTok from much of its Chinese operations, and is setting up a team in Mountain View, CA to oversee management of data in the US.