TikTok applied unnecessarily “strict” guidelines in countries with conservative moral codes (Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty)
The social media video app TikTok has been censoring pro-LGBT+ content in some conservative countries, even if homosexuality has never been illegal there.
A report by The Guardian revealed that in an attempt to provide locally sensitive moderation, TikTok banned any content that could be seen as positive to LGBT+ people – even same-sex couples holding hands.
The app ran several different moderation guidelines, with the “strict” one having an entire section devoted to censoring depictions of homosexuality. In this TikTok went substantially further than required by law.
“Intimate activities (holding hands, touching, kissing) between homosexual lovers” were banned, as were “reports of homosexual groups, including news, characters, music, TV show, pictures.”
This was applied to countries deemed conservative, including Turkey. Homosexuality has never been illegal there, but Amnesty previously told PinkNews that Turkish LGBT+ people are “living in more fear than ever” – which makes the need for LGBT+ representation particularly important.
The app’s strict guidelines also banned content that included alcohol or depictions of “non-Islamic gods” – both of which are legal and accepted in Turkey.
TikTok says it has now adopted a more nuanced and “localised” approach to moderation, but their new policies still allow “local moderators [to] subjectively censor content” which could include LGBT+ content.
In a statement to The Guardian, TikTok defended the app as “a platform for creativity, and committed to equality and diversity.”
“Our platform has experienced rapid growth in Turkey and other markets, and as we grow we are constantly learning and refining our approach to moderation,” a spokesperson said.
“The referenced guidelines regarding LGBTQ content in Turkey are no longer in use, and we have since made significant progress in establishing a more robust localised approach.
“However, we recognise the need to do more and we are actively working with local third parties and independent advisers to ensure our processes are appropriate.”