A person in shadows using a phone. Behind them is the TikTok logo.

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TikTok is failing to address hate speech, 20 advocacy groups say

The groups said that TikTok was 'failing on too many fronts' to remove that kind of content.

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Aug 30, 2021   Updated Aug 30, 2021, 11:20 am CDT

A group of advocacy organizations are urging TikTok to address their “grave concerns” about hate speech and violence appearing on the platform.

The coalition of 20 groups—which include the ADL, GLAAD, Media Matters for America, MediaJustice, the Southern Poverty Law Center, UltraViolet, and others—wrote a letter to TikTok today highlighting a recent report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) that “demonstrates that TikTok has an extremely serious content moderation problem.”

“Most concerning in ISD’s report is the overwhelming breadth of hate that is rapidly spreading across TikTok on a daily basis,” the group’s letter reads. “Whether it’s content that praises and celebrates the actions of terrorists and extremists, denies the existence of historically violent incidents such as genocides, or hate and violence directed at Muslims, Jews, Asians, Black people, refugees, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, ISD’s report demonstrates that this is not a problem that is narrow in scope or limited to isolated incidents. That is why we are urging you to take substantive action now before it is too late.”

The ISD report, which was published last week, sampled more than 1,000 videos on TikTok using search terms and found 312 videos that promoted white supremacy, 246 videos that featured support for an extremist or terrorist individual or organization, and 26 posts that denied the existence of the Holocaust. It also found content that was produced by ISIS and that footage of the Christchurch shooting was “easily discoverable” on TikTok.

TikTok removed 18.5 percent of the full sample of videos ISD reviewed, the report says.

The popular social media platform said it “categorically prohibits violent extremism and hateful behavior,” in a statement to the Hill.

“TikTok categorically prohibits violent extremism and hateful behavior, and our dedicated team will remove any such content as it violates our policies and undermines the creative and joyful experience people expect on our platform. We greatly value our collaboration with ISD and others whose critical research on industry-wide challenges helps strengthen how we enforce our policies to keep our platform safe and welcoming,” a TikTok spokesperson told the news outlet.

In their letter, the 20 advocacy groups said that TikTok was “failing on too many fronts” to remove that kind of content.

“As the ISD report clearly demonstrates, there is a sizable gap between TikTok’s content moderation policies and the platform’s actual enforcement. Policies are only as good as their actual application and enforcement, and to that end, TikTok is failing on too many fronts. That failure has led to bad actors actively leveraging your platform to spread hate and violence with the potential for grave consequences,” the letter reads.

You can read all of their letter here.


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*First Published: Aug 30, 2021, 11:19 am CDT