In documents viewed by the site, TikTok's higher ups outlined rules for moderators in regards to which types of people should have their content suppressed. Those with an "abnormal body shape" or who have an "obvious beer belly" fell into the censored category, as did people with "ugly facial features," including "too many wrinkles" and other "low quality" traits. It also outlined policies for poor people.
It's a disgusting set of guidelines, and we can only hope it's not being actively enforced. A spokesperson for TikTok told the site those rules were "an early blunt attempt at preventing bullying" and are no longer being enforced, even though there's no mention of bullying in the guidelines.
Maybe that's true, maybe not. Either way, the discriminatory directive should have never existed in the first place. They certainly run afoul of TikTok's mission, which is to use the video sharing service "to do good."
"TikTok wants to inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them. Check out some organizations that have used TikTok to grow their audience, activate supporters, and raise awareness around specific causes," TikTok states on its website.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a technology company headquartered in China. In addition to discriminatory moderating, the same documents instructed mods to to censor political speech in livestreams and to punish those who harmed "national honor."
Sources told The Intercept that the policies at large were be in use at least through late 2019. While TikTok claims they are no longer in use (and haven't been since May 2019), a company spokesperson would not clarify if they are still being enforced under different phrasing.
"Like all platforms, we have policies that protect our users, and protect national security, for example banning any accounts that promote hate speech or terrorism, as outlined in our Community Standards," the spokesperson said.