- A TikTok spokesperson told media that this was done to help users avoid bullying.
- TikTok content moderation guidelines also banned users for government criticism.
TikTok, the popular video sharing app, reportedly directed moderators to suppress content created by users that were deemed ugly, fat and poor. The guidelines on what type of users were not to be promoted were accessed by the Intercept, a publication based in the US. The guidelines suggested that videos made by certain users should not be promoted.
The policies reportedly directed moderators to suppress content from people who have abnormal body shape, chubby, have obvious beer belly, obese, or too thin. The Chinese video app, extremely popular among the youth, reportedly has around 800 million users.
The TikTok policy reportedly also prohibited ugly facial looks specifically pertaining to eye disorders, crooked mouth disease, and other disabilities. It asked the content moderators to watch out for users with misformatted face, fangs, lack of front teeth, senior people with too many wrinkles, obvious facial scars and deformities.
Documents retrieved by the Intercept suggest that the company also asked its moderators to suppress videos showing poverty, slums, dilapidated housing or construction sites.
The policy apparently notes that "If the character's appearance or the shooting environment is not good, the video will be much less attractive."
Josh Gartner, a TikTok spokesperson in the US, told the Intercept that moderators took some steps regarding the content to save users from bullying. He also reportedly said that the guidelines were old and were no longer in use.
Apart from side-lining users whom TikTok deemed ugly, the app also banned videos if they were critical of governments.
Hours before the report in the Intercept, TikTok announced that it was shutting down its moderation team in China that was responsible for all content moderation. The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly 100 content moderators in the China office of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, have been asked to look for some other job within the company. Instead of having a China-based moderation team, TikTok now plans to have moderation teams in its global offices so that it could better understand the local community norms and moderate content based on that, said WSJ report.
Around a week ago, TikTok also announced that it was opening a new transparency centre in its Los Angeles office, where it will allow outside experts to take a look at its content and content moderation practices.
This is not the first time TikTok is in news because of its content policies. The app has grown extremely fast and has acquired hundreds of millions of users in matter of months. However, its content moderation policies as well as other operation matters have lagged behind its growth. Even in India, where the app is extremely popular, it has faced issues in courts and with regulators due to content generated by its users.