Thu, Dec 05, 2019 - Page 1 News List

TikTok drops ‘blunt’ bullying policy after report it hid posts

APF, HONG KONG and SAN FRANCISCO

TikTok has dropped a “blunt” cyberbullying policy, the Chinese-owned video sharing app said yesterday after a report it hid posts by disabled, gay and overweight people.

People deemed “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition” had the reach of their posts restricted, German Web site NetzPolitik.org reported, citing leaked documents from Tiktok.

People with facial disfigurements, autism and Down syndrome were among those to have their posts dumped down TikTok’s algorithm so that others on the social network would not see them, the report said.

Gay and overweight people “also ended up on a list of ‘special users’ whose videos were regarded as a bullying risk by default and capped in their reach,” the report said.

Asked about the report, TikTok yesterday said it now recognized that “the approach was wrong” and added that it had dropped the policy.

“Early on, in response to an increase in bullying on the app, we implemented a blunt and temporary policy. This was never designed to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend,” a TikTok spokesman said. “While the intention was good, it became clear that the approach was wrong and we have since removed the policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.”

TikTok did not respond to a follow-up query about the specifics of the policy.

Meanwhile, a university student in California has filed a class-action lawsuit against TikTok, which she accuses of harvesting large amounts of user data and storing it in China.

“TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally identifiable user data,” the court filing said.

Misty Hong, a student in Palo Alto filed the suit against the app in California federal court last week, The Daily Beast Web site reported on Monday.

“TikTok also has surreptitiously taken user content, such as draft videos never intended for publication, without user knowledge or consent,” the suit says.

Hong alleges that the app retrieved her data without permission — including videos that she had created but not shared online — and transferred them to servers run by companies that cooperate with the Chinese government.

She filed the suit on behalf of the approximately 110 million US residents who have downloaded the app.

TikTok did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

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