TikTok Bans Holocaust Denial

Learning from the missteps of Facebook and YouTube, the social media company nixed conspiracy theories denying violent events

By Isobel Asher Hamilton

AP Photo/Jessica Hill via BI
TikTok is looking to shed its Chinese roots even more.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

TikTok released a new set of updated community guidelines on Wednesday, and among them is a rule explicitly banning content that "denies well-documented and violent events have taken place."

The rule falls under the "hateful ideology" section in the new guidelines, and would apply to Holocaust denial, a TikTok spokesman confirmed to Business Insider.

How social media companies deal with conspiracy theories rooted in bigotry has become a thorny issue for social media companies.

In a 2018 interview Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wouldn't ban Holocaust denial on Facebook. "I find [Holocaust denialism] deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Image credit:Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Zuckerberg's stance has drawn sharp criticism from civil rights organisations like the Anti-Defamation League, and continues to do so. Actor Sacha Baron Cohen attacked Zuckerberg in a speech at the ADL late last year. "We have, unfortunately, millions of pieces of evidence for the Holocaust — it is an historical fact. And denying it is not some random opinion. Those who deny the Holocaust aim to encourage another one," Baron Cohen said.

Last year The Guardian viewed guideline documents for TikTok moderators that directed them to remove content that could upset the Chinese government, including mentions of Tiananmen Square and the Cambodian genocide. TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

Responding at the time, TikTok said the guidelines in question were outdated, and it had taken a "blunt approach to minimizing conflict" in its early days.

Reports of Beijing-friendly censorship is one of the elements of TikTok's Chinese ownership which has placed it in the crosshairs of US lawmakers. TikTok has been making concerted attempts to reassure America, publishing its first ever transparency report last week and claiming it received more censorship requests from the US than from China in 2019.

Enforcing the new guidelines and actually monitoring the app for conspiracy theories may also be tricky. A spokesman declined to say how many moderators TikTok deploys, and would only say that the number has grown over the past year.

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