TikTok apologizes for temporary removal of video on Muslims in China

The logo of the TikTok app is seen on a mobile phone screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 28 November 2019

TikTok apologizes for temporary removal of video on Muslims in China

  • The video was offline for 50 minutes, TikTok said on its website
  • China’s foreign ministry said it had no specifics of the case, when queried by Reuters about the incident on Wednesday

SHANGHAI: Social media app TikTok apologized to a user on Thursday for removing a video that criticized China’s treatment of Muslims, blaming a “human moderation error” and saying the images had been restored within less than an hour.

The controversy over the video, viewed 1.6 million times, comes as TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, faces an inquiry by a US national security panel over its handling of personal data, while US lawmakers fear it may be censoring politically sensitive content.

In the video she posted last week, the user, who identifies herself as Feroza Aziz, gave a tutorial on eyelash curling, while talking about how Muslims were being treated, and saying she wanted to spread awareness of the situation.

But on Twitter this week she said she had been blocked from posting on TikTok for a month, and on Wednesday posted that her viral video had been taken down, only to be restored later.

The video was offline for 50 minutes, TikTok said on its website.

“We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part,” said Eric Han, the app’s US head of safety.

“Due to a human moderation error, the viral video from Nov. 23 was removed. It’s important to clarify that nothing in our community guidelines precludes content such as this video, and it should not have been removed.”

The TikTok user did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for additional comment.

China’s foreign ministry said it had no specifics of the case, when queried by Reuters about the incident on Wednesday.

But it added that it required Chinese firms to operate in a way that respected international norms and local laws and regulations, and hoped that relevant countries also provided a fair and non-discriminatory environment.

TikTok is not available in China, but ByteDance has a domestic version called Douyin.

The user did not mention Uighurs in the video, but said later on Twitter she had been referring to the minority ethnic group.

United Nations experts and rights groups estimate more than a million Uighurs and members of other ethnic groups have been detained in camps in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, which has triggered international condemnation.

China says the camps are re-education and training centers.

ByteDance has stepped up efforts to ring-fence TikTok, popular with US teenagers and those in their 20s, from much of its Chinese operations, Reuters reported on Thursday.

In a timeline on its blog post, TikTok said it had blocked another account set up by Aziz that had posted an image of Osama Bin Laden which violated its content policies regarding “terrorist imagery.”

On Monday, it enforced a device ban on accounts associated with violations. This affected the new account from which Aziz had posted the eyelash curling video and sent from the same device, it said.

It said it had decided to override the device ban and was directly contacting her to do so.

Aziz confirmed on Twitter that TikTok had restored her account but said other past videos had been deleted.

“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 three-part video about the Uyghurs? No,” she posted on Twitter.


Facebook donates $2.1 million to support Lebanon

Updated 12 August 2020

Facebook donates $2.1 million to support Lebanon

  • Managing Director Facebook MENA Ramez Shehadi: We are donating more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs
  • Ramez Shehadi: We’re working with hospitals and local partners to launch local access to our blood donation tool — allowing donors to find nearby blood donation centers in need of support

DUBAI: Facebook is giving millions to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs in Lebanon to support relief and recovery efforts in Beirut following the devastating blast there.

“In support of the vital work that organizations and individuals are doing on the ground in Beirut, we are donating more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs to support relief and recovery efforts, $1 million of which has been matched by our community as part of a Facebook fundraiser,” said Ramez Shehadi, managing director, Facebook Middle East and North Africa.

“Moreover, we’re working with hospitals and local partners to launch local access to our blood donation tool — which allows blood donors to find nearby blood donation centers in need of support — and supporting local newsrooms impacted. We will continue to work with different organizations that are making a real difference at this critical time,” Shehadi said.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said in a post: “Facebook is doing what we can to help those struggling in the aftermath. Our safety check tool was activated soon after the explosion, with tens of thousands of people using it to let their friends and loved ones know they were OK. Hundreds of thousands of people visited our crisis page to get accurate information and request help, and we have seen our community come together to search for the missing and offer places to sleep to those who have lost homes. And we are launching our blood donation tool in Lebanon in partnership with local hospitals and others to point local blood donors to nearby blood donation centers.”

Additionally, the Facebook Community activated the safety check feature; and the crisis page is a resource for all those looking for help and support, from searching for missing loves ones to providing services such as blood donations.