Bytedance/TikTok Uyghur censorship

Occurred: February 2021

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A former employee at TikTok owner Bytedance claims the Chinese government demanded the company develop algorithms to identify and automatically delete Uyghur language posts. 

The employee, who worked for a technology team that supports Bytedance's central Trust and Safety team, also alleges the company is also actively censoring and deleting content critical of Beijing. 

The employee writes pseudonymously in Protocol that the technologies created by his team 'supported the company's entire content moderation in and outside China, including Douyin at home and its international equivalent TikTok'.

Rumours of Bytedance's close relationship with the Chinese government, and its surveillance and censorship of Uyghur-related content through its Douyin and TikTok services have long circulated. 

The company has said it will open 'Transparency Centers' in Los Angeles and Washington DC for researchers to examine its content moderation practices.

Operator: Bytedance/TikTok/Douyin  
Developer: Bytedance/TikTok/Douyin
Country: China; Global
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Identify/remove toxic content
Technology: Recommendation algorithm
Issue: Freedom of expression - censorship
Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2021
Last updated: January 2022