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TikTok updates community guidelines amid criticism

January 8, 2020

TikTok has updated and clarified its community guidelines following a turbulent year of security concerns and censorship allegations.

In response to criticisms from users, the social media app has made a number of changes. These include more flexibility around satirical and political content, limiting the spread of mis/disinformation – including deepfakes – and clear labelling of anti-extremist content.

Now divided into 10 categories, each guideline includes a detailed rationale and examples of content that will not be permitted.

In a blog post on Wednesday 8 January, TikTok said: “These changes offer clarity around how we define harmful or unsafe content that is not permitted on the platform. It’s important that users have insight into the philosophy behind our moderation decisions and the framework for making such judgements.”

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, caused controversy in late 2019 when it took down a video in which an American teenager criticised the Chinese government’s treatment of Muslims.

Although they reversed the decision and claimed it was caused by a “human moderation error”, it is not the first time TikTok has been accused of unjustly removing politically charged content.

The platform has also announced it will clamp down on organised disinformation campaigns and misinformation “meant to incite fear, hate or prejudice”. 

TikTok said: “While we encourage our users to have respectful conversations about the subjects that matter to them, we remove misinformation that could cause harm to an individual's health or wider public safety.”

The new guidelines ban content in which the producer impersonates someone else with the intent to deceive their audience.

But TechCrunch discovered in early 2020 that TikTok’s parent company is secretly building a deepfakes generator. Deepfakes are realistic, computer-generated depictions of individuals doing and saying things that they haven't done or said in real life.

Read our TikTok parent guide for advice about using the app in a safer way - and making the most of its settings.