TikTok Accused of Pro-China Censorship


Lucas Zhang

Beijing based video sharing social media app TikTok has come under fire for censoring content critical of the Chinese government as well as LGBTQ+ content on the platform.

Emily Mackin and Kate Miller

Over the last year, the popularity of the video-sharing social networking app, TikTok, culminated when it became the most downloaded app for IOS in 2019. Currently, the app has over 500 million active users in 155 countries. People of all ages are still joining the app every day as its popularity continues to stay on a steady incline.

However, the increased publicity surrounding the app isn’t all positive. Near the end of 2019, TikTok became the center of significant controversy regarding privacy. As a Beijijng based company, the app has been targeted with accusations of censoring content criticizing the Chinese government. 

Seventeen-year old Feroza Aziz landed at the forefront of case against TikTok’s content restrictions when she published a video about the current mass interment of Muslims in China, disguised as a makeup tutorial. The views surged in days, and TikTok attempted to block her account, but reversed its decision shortly after frequent users noticed the deliberate censorship.

After the controversy surrounding the company’s handling of Aziz’s video, more videos discussing discrimination against the Muslim minority became a normality on TikTok. 

“TikTok’s censorship really angered me,” said sophomore Evelyn Blower. “It targets minorities and underrepresented groups, which made me feel like an app that is meant for everyone to create wasn’t giving everyone a platform to be heard.”

“I remember hearing a lot in the news about this after I was already using the app, but it took me a long time to actually make an account, because I was scared,” senior Abby Haelig said. “I eventually did make an account because the news died out, and I didn’t think it was as big an issue anymore.” 

TikTok has set limitations in place, but they haven’t deterred people’s desire to share out more important issues; the company’s attempts have only spurred a greater motion for users to create dramatic, serious videos to capture the audience’s attention on potentially censored topics. For example, these efforts include videos about missing and murdered indigenous women in the U.S.

The content on TikTok varies wildly from cosplayer trends to political views to some dark humor. 

“I sometimes see videos that are serious and are informative about what’s going on but most of the stuff I see is either funny videos or people dancing,” senior Kailen Mulhern said. “I also see people turn serious situations into memes since that’s how our generation handles scary things.” 

Users also discovered TikTok to be banning LGBTQ+ content in many countries, mainly Turkey, and a majority of this censorship surrounded videos that contained messages of protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and promotion of differing sexualities.

Controversy surrounding TikTok has expanded as the U.S. Army has banned the usage of the app amongst soldiers, claiming the app as a potential security threat. 

Many users are unlikely to stop using the video app, but the increasing number of headlines can raise more questions about privacy rights amongst frequent users. The outlook of the TikTok’s prosperity seems to be promising, with faithful users attentive to a new stream of videos every day, but with amidst accusations against the company, TikTok could see a minor decrease in its base of users. In the age where finding entertainment through interactive social media platforms, like TikTok is easy, this controversy is not likely to be a factor of people’s disinterest in posting on the app.