The Chinese Communist Party-linked social media app TikTok is actively censoring content related to President Donald Trump, according to a new report.
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which is aligned with China’s communist regime, reportedly “monitors” the platform for content related to Trump and the persecuted Chinese Uyghurs and then “suppresses” such posts.
The effort was exposed in internal company records acquired by Forbes.
The documents reveal that ByteDance has personnel in China that use a moderation system that includes word lists designed to identify or restrict content related to a broad range of topics.
ByteDance keeps track of and sometimes suppresses content related to the Chinese government, trade between China and the U.S., the persecuted ethnic minority group Uyghurs, President Donald Trump, and TikTok competitor YouTube.
Despite over 50 of the lists containing the term “TikTok” in their title, the company told Forbes they had never applied the lists to their platform.
TikTok is highly popular in the United States, especially among younger Americans and teens.
The platform is frequently accused of serving as a spying and data-gathering app for the CCP.
China has its own version of TikTok called Douyin which is also owned by ByteDance.
TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza stressed that TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin are different.
The company insists that they have separate keyword platforms and lists that different teams oversee.
ByteDance and TikTok’s keyword system split in 2019, according to Favazza.
TikTok’s version has been independent ever since,” Favazza claims.
Favazza suggested to Forbes that the documents they acquired could be outdated or incomplete.
She stated that the platform never enforced any of the word lists discovered.
Favazza told Forbes she could not speculate on why the list titles have “TikTok” or “US” in their names.
“To be clear, there are separate keyword moderation tools,” ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks told the Daily Caller.
“The tool that moderates TikTok is completely separate from those responsible for the products available in mainland China.”
Experts reportedly told Forbes that it’s almost impossible to ensure Douyin’s strict settings are inoperative on TikTok.
Chinese law requires businesses to hand over data to the communist government upon request.
Every company that operates in China must abide by these laws and swear allegiance to the CCP.
Experts further explained to Forbes that ByteDance could be compelled to disclose information with party leaders no matter where the activity originated.
Some examples from the lists the ByteDance tool monitors include the following:
- “Trump Directed Prohibited Words”
- “Putin Directed Prohibited Words”
- “TikTok audio sensitive words in Tibet region”
- “Special prohibited words for Xi and Peng”
- “Theming Strategies of Uyghur-Han Couples”
- “YouTube Domestic Surveillance”
- “Company Product Negative Sensitive Vocabulary”
- “TikTok government affairs media topic vocabulary.”
China said it would fiercely oppose any forced sale of TikTok in response to the Biden administration’s call for the company to divest itself from ByteDance or face a ban in the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chinese-tied apps are thriving in the U.S., while American apps are typically not allowed to operate in China due to the country’s strict online censorship, according to Axios.
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