TikTok ensured that videos of people with disabilities, such as Down's syndrome, were seen less often, confirms an initiate in conversation with Netzpolitik . The rule was set to protect "vulnerable people" against bullying.
TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, is a video app that allows you to create and share short music videos. According to the Chinese parent company ByteDance, the app has a billion users worldwide.
The German news site Netzpolitik saw the rules for the company's moderators and spoke to a source within the company.
It shows that TikTok moderators were instructed to mark videos of people with disabilities and thus ensure that the reach of the videos was limited. This also happened with videos of LGBT people and overweight people.
The videos fell under the category 'Images that represent a subject that is very vulnerable to cyberbullying'. The explanation states that this includes users who are "susceptible to intimidation or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental state".
Moderators were instructed to mark people with disabilities as 'Risk 4'. This means that a video is only visible in the country where it was uploaded.
"We wanted to protect vulnerable people against bullying"
The rules were set to protect vulnerable people against bullying, says TikTok. "This approach was never intended as a long-term solution. And although we had good intentions, we realize that it was not the right approach," a spokesperson told Netzpolitik .
According to TikTok, the rules have now been replaced by new, nuanced rules. The technology for bullying identification has been further developed and users are encouraged to interact positively.