TikTok allegedly asked its moderators to pull mentions of topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibet’s calls for independence and other content that challenges the Chinese government’s version of events. The service said it had retired the guidelines in May and that it had been using a “blunt approach” to minimizing drama on TikTok that included banning talk of all topics it deemed controversial, not just those from China.
An American TikTok spokeswoman talking to Reuters maintained that the Chinese government “does not request” censorship on its service. American data is stored in the US, she added, and China wouldn’t have jurisdiction over TikTok since it isn’t used there. Chinese residents instead use Douyin, a virtually identical app that is subject to Chinese censorship.
Whether or not there’s merit to the claims, Rubio has momentum on his side. The US just added eight Chinese tech companies to its Entity List over their help with China’s suppression of Muslim minorities. Moreover, Blizzard is facing a wave of criticism for banning an esports player that declared support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. Combine that with earlier actions against Huawei and ByteDance may face distrust even if its current practices are above-board.
Ample & growing evidence exists that TikTok’s platform for western markets, including the U.S., are censoring content in line with #China‘s communist government directives.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 9, 2019