Tik Tok bans pro lgbtq+ content

TikTok’s efforts to provide locally sensitive moderation have resulted in it banning any content that could be seen as positive to gay people or gay rights, down to same-sex couples holding hands, even in countries where homosexuality has never been illegal, the Guardian can reveal.
The rules were applied on top of the general moderation guidelines, first reported by the Guardian on Wednesday, which included a number of clauses that banned speech that touched on topics sensitive to China, including Tiananmen Square, Tibet and Falun Gong. ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, says the moderation guidelines were replaced in May.
As well as the general moderation guidelines, described as the “loose version” to moderators, TikTok ran at least two other sets.
One, the “strict” guidelines, were used in countries with conservative moral codes, and contained a significantly more restrictive set of rules concerning nudity and vulgarity, which ban, for instance, “partially naked buttocks”, exposed cleavage with “a length of more than 1/3 of the whole cleavage length”, and lengthy depictions of sanitary pads.
The other was a set of guidelines for individual countries, which introduced new rules to deal with specific local controversies – but also further restricted what can be shown. For instance, the Guardian has seen Turkey-specific guidelines in which TikTok explicitly banned a swathe of content related to Kurdish separatism, and adds the country’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to the list of political leaders who cannot be criticised, defamed or spoofed on the platform.
But the local guidelines also barred a host of behaviours which are both legal and accepted in Turkey. Depictions of alcohol consumption were barred, for instance, even though 17% of Turks drink. So too were any depictions of statues of “non-Islamic gods”, with examples given of “Jesus, Maria, angels”. 
And an entire section of the rules was devoted to censoring depictions of homosexuality. “Intimate activities (holding hands, touching, kissing) between homosexual lovers” were censored, as were “reports of homosexual groups, including news, characters, music, tv show, pictures”. Similarly blocked was content about “protecting rights of homosexuals (parade, slogan, etc.)” and “promotion of homosexuality”. In all those guidelines, TikTok went substantially further than required by law.
The country-specific guidelines took on a new relevance following the Guardian’s initial reporting on TikTok’s censorship, in which ByteDance said that the guidelines had been retired in May in favour of “localised approaches, including local moderators, local content and moderation policies, local refinement of global policies”.
The Turkey and Strict versions of the moderation guidelines suggest those localised approaches may not be less censorious than the previous centralised approach.
In a statement, TikTok said it was “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. 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.”
The Guardian also reported that TikTok took the unusual approach of erring on the side of risk when it came to sexualised content featuring children: videos of them wearing “sexy outfits” or “dancing seductively”.
The platform’s guidelines advised moderators to treat subjects as though they were over 18 if their age was unclear, while other platforms instead recommend their moderators take the side of caution, particularly if the content has been reported as underage.
Andy Burrows, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online policy, criticised the approach, and said: “These guidelines demonstrate that TikTok has woefully failed to grasp the seriousness of child abuse imagery.
“Furthermore, TikTok is taking a cavalier approach by telling moderators that if they aren’t sure whether someone is a child or not, to assume they are an adult.
“Ultimately, TikTok needs to fundamentally reassess its attitude to handling inappropriate images of children on its site. The fact that they use wholly unsuitable language like ‘underage pornography’ and ‘sexy outfits’ to describe this horrific content speaks volumes.”
TikTok says it has since reversed the policy, and now requires moderators to treat people as under 18 if there was any doubt. 
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