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Amidst a divestment deadline, TikTok removes over 4 lakh videos in the US for being hateful

As Bytedance races to divest its American assets on a deadline, TikTok has detailed some of its policies against hate speech, stating that content around race-based harassment, male supremacy, organised hate groups and associated acts, will fall under hate speech, and it will act on them.

TikTok has removed accounts, videos for being hateful: The company, which is being vied for acquisition by  Oracle and Microsoft, said it has removed over 380,000 videos, 1,300 accounts, and 64,000 hateful comments in the US for violating its hate speech policy. These don’t reflect a complete success rate, but “they do indicate our commitment to action”, TikTok’s US head of safety Eric Han wrote in a blog post. White supremacy or nationalism, male supremacy, anti-semitism, and accounts hat deny “violent tragedies, such as the Holocaust and slavery” are those that TikTok will act against.

Reducing visibility: Apart from removals, TikTok will also reduce the ease of discovery of hateful content, by not showing such content in search results, and redirecting users to TikTok’s community guidelines, etc. TikTok will do this for searches for “#whitelivesmatter”, for instance. “We periodically train our enforcement teams to better detect evolving hateful behavior, symbols, terms, and offensive stereotypes,” the blog post said.

  • TikTok also said that it will train its moderators to place slurs in context, and differentiate between when it is being used for empowerment, such as by a members from communities such as LGTBQ+ people, Asian American, Black, or Indigenous communities, and when they are used hatefully.

What about hateful content elsewhere? TikTok’s content moderation policy in the US is clearly stricter, even if only in theory, then it ever was in India. A WIRED investigation from a year ago found widespread hateful content based on caste, which TikTok did not act upon.

TikTok’s update on hateful content comes as the company’s operations are under existential threat in the US: Under orders from US President Donald Trump, TikTok’s parent company Bytedance, has to divest its American assets and rights to any user data that TikTok gathered in the country within 3 months. Amidst long-standing tensions between the US and China, Trump on Monday asserted that there is “credible evidence” that Bytedance might be a threat to American national security.

The US is now one of TikTok’s largest markets, after the Indian government banned TikTok along with 59 other ‘Chinese’ apps, following a clash with China at the border. After Microsoft made headlines for being the frontrunner to take over Bytedance’s American operations, Oracle has shown interest in buying TikTok’s North America, Australia, and New Zealand business from Bytedance.

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