In a statement released by TikTok on October 21, it has been announced that the platform is working to take “a stand against hateful ideologies.”

In this statement, they have announced that any content that is “hurtful to the LGBTQ+ community” will be removed. This will be enforced by removing “hateful ideas, including content that promotes conversion therapy and the idea that no one is born LGBTQ+.”

Alongside this, they have stated that Trust & Safety teams are already working to remove hate speech and hateful ideologies like neo-Nazism and white supremacy. In the statement, it is articulated that TikTok is also working to “remove neighbouring ideologies, such as white nationalism, white genocide theory, as well as statements that have their origin in these ideologies, and movements such as Identitarianism and male supremacy.”

The statement also includes information about how TikTok is aware of “the evolution of expression” and is training staff to have a better understanding of “more nuanced content like cultural appropriation and slurs.” TikTok states that if members of a “disenfranchised group, such as the LGBTQ+, Black, Jewish, Roma and minority ethnic communities” use a word as “a term of empowerment” then they want “enforcement teams to understand the context behind it and not mistakenly take the content down.”

If content is removed, TikTok states that the original creator will be notified, and that they will be able to ask for the decision to be reviewed.

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 This comes after TikTok recently apologised for censoring LGBTQI content. In September 2020, Theo Bertram, the director of public policy in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for TikTok stated that this was done in an effort to comply with local law enforcement officials in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where governments still hold anti-LGBTQI views.

Bertram reportedly stated that “I think the Russian law is terrible and our community does too” but that “unfortunately we have to comply with legal requests in the countries that we operate.”

According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank funded by the Australian government and, in part, by the Australian Department of Defense, “TikTok is the first globally popular social media network to take a heavy-handed approach to content moderation” and that “hashtags related to LGBTQ+ issues are suppressed on the platform in at least eight languages”, which affects “not only citizens of a particular country, but all users speaking those languages, no matter where in the world they live.”

Conversely, TikTok has also emerged as a platform which provides a safe online environment for LGBTQI individuals to come out and connect with others. TikTok was referred to as the equivalent of “gay Tumblr for Gen Z” by i-D in 2019, with challenges like the #DontRushChallenge providing opportunities for queer creators to create inclusive content.

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