TikTok exec says she ‘misspoke’ in hearing about the app censoring Xinjiang content
TikTok has said in the past that it doesn’t remove content based on sensitivities related to China.
In a statement to CNN Business on Friday, Kanter said she misspoke during the hearing.
“TikTok has previously acknowledged that in our very early days, we took a blunt approach to moderating content that promoted conflict, but we’ve also said we recognized this was the wrong approach and eliminated it,” she said. “However, we want to be absolutely clear that even in those early policies, there was never a policy around the Uighur community, which is where I misspoke.”
Kanter initially told the committee that TikTok does not censor content. She also said that if the ruling Chinese Communist Party asked the app to remove content or provide user details, such requests would be denied.
“We do not moderate content based on political sensitivities or affiliation. There’s no influence of the Chinese government on TikTok,” she said.
“The people who wrote the content guidelines took a decision to not allow conflict on the platform and so there were some incidents where content was not allowed on the platform, specifically with regard to the Uyghur situation,” she said.
Western governments and human rights groups are scrutinizing companies they suspect may be complicit in the Chinese government’s sweeping detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far western region of Xinjiang.
The US State Department estimates that as many as two million people may have been taken to detention centers, where former detainees claim they are indoctrinated and abused. While Beijing insists that the camps are voluntary “vocational training centers,” many Western nations have condemned them as mass detention centers designed to eradicate Uyghur culture and Islamic practices.
Some testimonies from former detainees describe over-crowded cells, torture and even the death of fellow detainees.
Kanter did not provide the exact date when the content moderation policy was changed, but she said it had been “at least over a year.”
“I just want to emphasize that we do not censor content [now]. I would encourage you to open the app and search for Tiananmen Square, search for Uyghurs, search for Tibet, you will find that content on TikTok,” she said, listing some topics considered out of bounds by the Chinese government.
During the hearing, Kanter invited UK officials to come to TikTok’s Transparency and Accountability Center to inspect the app’s algorithm and observe the company’s approach to content moderation, claiming they could see for themselves that there is no censorship anymore.
“We’re the only platform that has announced an open approach to our algorithm and the code that drives our algorithm,” she said.
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