TikTok is allegedly shadow-banning multiple LGBT+ hashtags around the world

A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute called on governments to hold social media platforms such as TikTok accountable for censorship.


TikTok has ‘shadow-banned’ and silenced numerous hashtags relating to LGBT+ rights, according to a newly released report. 

In a new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the levels of censorship and control occurring on TikTok are brought to light. It states that terms like “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender” were restricted in several languages for global users regardless of their location. 

As stated in TikTok and WeChat: Curating and controlling global information flows, “TikTok claims that it continues ‘to see the vulnerability of LGBTQ+ rights’, writing in a June 2020 blog post that ‘it’s important to us that the LGBTQ+ voices and stories of those who are pushing forward acceptance for all and helping to create a world where everyone has the right to be who they are and love who they love, are shared, seen and heard.’”

The report further states, “Our research shows that that commitment isn’t applied consistently across multiple languages.”

According to the report, TikTok has shadow-banned numerous hashtags relating to LGBT+ rights. This means users believe their posts are visible and searchable, however the content will not reach anyone else. 

The Institute found eight restrictions across different languages, including the term “gay” being shadow-banned in Arabic, Russian, Estonian, and Bosnian. The phrases “I am gay” and “I am lesbian” are restricted in Russian, while “transgender” is restricted in Arabic.

In the report, it reads, “Our research has found that hashtags related to LGBTQ+ issues in Russian, Arabic, Bosnian and more aren’t searchable on the platform, preventing people who speak those languages all over the world from taking part in the discussion.”

Along with the censorship around LGBT+ rights, protests in connection with the Black Lives Matter movement in America have also been restricted. Following backlash over the suppression of #ACAB, TikTok remade it available before removing it once more. 

The report states, “TikTok’s rapid expansion around the world has been punctuated by a string of censorship controversies that it has struggled to explain away.”

“Initial instances of censorship, documented in this report, were the result of a ‘blunt approach’ to content moderation that TikTok spokespeople admit they deployed in the app’s ‘early days’. More recent examples of apparent censorship—including posts tagged with #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd—have been explained away by TikTok as the result of a ‘technical glitch’,” the report continues. 

The report TikTok and WeChat: Curating and controlling global information flows goes on to call for government intervention in online censorship. It reads, “It’s imperative that states move to a policy position where all social media and internet companies are being held to the same set of standards, regardless of their country of origin or ownership.”

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