- Feroza Aziz/TikTok
- A teen on TikTok has been going viral for a series of videos showing her give a makeup tutorial while criticizing the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim population.
- The account of Ferrora Aziz was suspended shortly after her videos went viral, leading to further speculation on whether TikTok censored political content that might offend the Chinese government.
- TikTok has issued a public apology to Aziz and reinstated one of her accounts, saying its moderation process “will not be perfect.”
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TikTok issued a public apology after suspending an account belonging to a teen who went viral for using her videos, disguised as makeup tutorials, to issue a statement about China’s treatment of Muslims.
The American teenager Feroza Aziz says she has since regained access to her TikTok account, which was suspended shortly after she used it to post a series of videos earlier this week that have been watched more than 1.5 million times.
In a statement published Wednesday on TikTok’s website, the company stood behind its initial decision to suspend Aziz’s account but also added that its moderation process “will not be perfect.”
Aziz has made the rounds across social media with her videos posted to her TikTok account, @getmefamouspartthree, that appeared to be a series of makeup tutorials. However, each video switches after just a few seconds to Aziz calling on viewers to learn about China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighurs.
Aziz says in her videos that she designed them to try to fool TikTok’s moderators and keep them from removing her content. TikTok – an app not available in China but owned by the Chinese company ByteDance – has faced increasing scrutiny over fears it censors content considered “culturally problematic” and offensive to the Chinese government.
Further, others have alleged TikTok restricts content dealing with “social and political topics.” When pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong earlier this year, TikTok was curiously devoid of any hints of unrest, and videos instead documented a prettier picture. TikTok insists, however, that it’s independent from the Chinese government.
Aziz grew suspicious when she received a message from TikTok not long after her videos went up that her account had been “temporarily suspended due to multiple violations of our Community Guidelines,” she tweeted.
Aziz argued on Twitter that her account was suspended “for trying to spread awareness.” TikTok has said her account was suspended because it was connected to another one of her accounts, @getmefamousplzsir, which was banned for violating rules.
TikTok said the ban on Aziz’s second account was part of “scheduled platform-wide enforcement” of certain violations, including videos containing “terrorism or terrorist imagery.” TikTok pointed the finger at a video in which a picture of Osama bin Laden flashes on the screen.
— Alexandra Ma (@AlexandraMa15) November 27, 2019
TikTok said in its statement that while it “recognize(s) that this video may have been intended as satire,” it maintains strict policies.
In Wednesday’s statement, TikTok said Aziz’s account suspension and her China callout videos were two separate incidents. Even further, TikTok blamed “a human moderation error” for causing Aziz’s video about China’s treatment of Muslims to disappear from the platform for 50 minutes Wednesday morning.
Aziz responded on Twitter, where she made it clear she didn’t believe that the situation with her TikTok account was merely a coincidence as the company said.
“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs?” Aziz wrote. “No.”
UPDATE: tik tok has issued a public apology and gave me my account back. Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No. pic.twitter.com/ehUpSJiyy1
— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 27, 2019
China has been accused of running detention centers in the autonomous western region of Xinjiang. Interviews with people who were held in the camps reveal allegations of beatings and food deprivation, as well as medical experimentation on prisoners.
China has acknowledged the existence of some “reeducation camps” but repeatedly denied any reports of abuse at its facilities.
The region has a population of about 10 million citizens, many of whom are Uighur or other ethnic minorities, and in May, Assistant Secretary of US Defense Randall Schriver said “at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens” were detained in these facilities.
Satellite images reviewed by the Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement earlier this month identified at least 465 detention centers, labor camps, and suspected prisons in Xinjiang.
And a recent leak of classified Chinese government documents known as the “China Cables” laid out a manual for exactly how the detention centers were to operate, from preventing escape by double locking all the doors to using a “points system” based on behavior that is linked “directly to rewards, punishments, and family visits.”