Julia Fox with mascara brush background

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Julia Fox’s ‘mascara’ flop highlights problems with ‘algospeak’ for creators

Julia Fox discovered the perils of TikTok's niche euphemisms firsthand.


Patricia Grisafi

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 7, 2023   Updated on Jul 26, 2023, 5:43 pm CDT


This story was originally published on Passionfruit.

This article contains descriptions of sexual violence. 

When Julia Fox commented on a TikTok video featuring the word “mascara,” she unknowingly opened a massive debate about code words being used by creators on social media. Creators use various euphemisms to avoid content moderation and participate in viral trends, but experts and creators are now questioning how so-called “algospeak” might lead to miscommunication and mental health damage online.

In January 2023, Fox commented on a viral TikTok by Conor Whipple (@big_whip13), which now has over 8.8 million views. The video featured a caption referencing mascara: “I gave this one girl mascara one time and it must’ve been so good that she decided she and her friend should both try it without my consent.”

“Idk why but I don’t feel bad for u lol,” Fox responded in a now-deleted comment. 

Sure, sharing your makeup is not sanitary and you shouldn’t do it—but Whipple was not referring to cosmetics. The term “mascara” is a code word for a sexual experience or relationship that went viral in 2023, but Fox had no idea. After people started calling Fox out for acting ignorantly with a sexual assault survivor, she apologized. 

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2023, 11:54 am CST