Apparently the app has a *big* censorship problem
Lizzo is “Good as Hell,” and so are her TikTok vids—and she wants everyone to know it. On March 4, the “Truth Hurts” singer called out TikTok’s apparent censorship after noticing that the app keeps removing videos of her in bathing suits. In a TikTok video (which is honestly an iconic move), Lizzo mouths “I know” on repeat while messages flash across the screen. ‘Tiktok keeps taking down my videos of me in my bathing suits,” the rapper-singer and style icon wrote. “But allows other videos with girls in bathing suits. I wonder why? TikTok…we need to talk.”
@lizzo##fyp♬ iknowiknowiknowiknow – erin_mcmillen
The idea of TikTok censoring anyone’s body, let alone that of Lizzo, the queen of body positivity and self-love, is truly ludicrous. But it turns out this kind of censorship is not that out of character for the popular social media app. TikTok is getting a rep for censoring content and stories that are pretty important—and that’s really not cool.
It’s pretty clear what TikTok is doing—and the message they’re sending
The fact that TikTok is reportedly taking down Lizzo’s videos of herself singing and living her life in a bikini…says a lot. Especially considering that the app seems to be cherry picking just exactly *whose* accounts—and bodies—they’re censoring. As BuzzFeed (and several TikTok users) pointed out in an article, other verified TikTok users who have posted similar videos haven’t faced the same type of censorship. One example is user Charli D’amelio, whose account features several videos of she and her friends dancing to viral songs in bikinis. Which is totally fine—but why is Lizzo being censored if bikini vids aren’t being removed across the board? The only real difference between users like D’amelio and Lizzo (ya know, besides one being a millionaire musician with hit records and BFF status with Harry Styles) is that Lizzo is plus size and D’amelio is not.
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The implication here is that curvier bodies are offensive and need to be removed from the app—and public view.
Which, unfortunately, is not a stance that’s unique to TikTok. In 2018, Instagram was called out by tons of users after seemingly censoring curvier bodies as well. In October of that year, model Katana Fatale posted a photo of herself in an outdoor shower, which Instagram promptly removed. When Fatale tried to repost it, it was taken down again, despite that fact that—as Fatale shared in a side-by-side Instagram story—a photo of Kim Kardashian that was even more revealing (but had received two million likes), remained up on the platform. And *all* the way back in 2014, YouTuber Meghan Tonjes had a similar experience after having a photo of her clothed size-16 bum removed from Instagram, who cited community guidelines regarding nudity. “There has been a long history of Instagram deleting photos of fat bodies that don’t actually violate any guidelines,” Sarah Hostetler Rosen, a Portland woman who started the #FatIsNotAViolation movement, told FLARE in 2018.
But it turns out, TikTok is known for this kind of censorship
And while TikTok may be following in the (totally wrong) footsteps of social media apps before it, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be critical of the super popular dance app; because not only is it reportedly censoring certain kinds of bodies, but sexual orientations as well. According to a December 2019 report from the German site NetzPolitik, leaked docs from the company reveal that the app has censored posts by limiting the reach of videos by users it identified as disabled, fat or LGBTQ+. This censorship took many different forms, from limiting viewership to the poster’s home country to not allowing videos on the popular search page. According to the report, other users were manually put on a restriction list, with a “striking number” of these “special users,” reportedly “show[ing] a rainbow flag in their biographies or [describing] themselves as lesbian, gay or non-binary…The list also includes users who are simply fat and self-confident.”
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The censorship was reportedly targeted at accounts and individuals the company felt would be vulnerable to bullying. In response to the publication of their guidelines, TikTok told NetzPolitik that the rules were “never intended to be a long-term solution.”
More recently, several transgender TikTok user have reported having videos either taken down or the sound removed. These videos often featured the users just talking about their lives.
And this censorship extends into the political sphere as well. According to a September 2019 article by The Guardian, leaked documents from the company reveal that the Chinese-owned company has internal guidelines that call for the censorship of any videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the religious group Falun Gong (which is banned).
And this kind of discriminatory censorship is an issue
While the company may be thinking that censoring particular videos and users is a helpful solution, it really isn’t. Because it’s not really their place to police the politics (body or otherwise) of users on their apps.
And especially when it comes to plus-sized users and LGBTQ+ individuals who want to share their lives, preemptively censoring the content of individuals the app deems as “vulnerable” kind of leans in to and reinforce the bonkers idea that they shouldn’t be seen; that bodies like Lizzo’s—because they’re plus-sized—will inevitably be made fun of because they’re not desirable. That’s a lot for a company to assume. And removing users’ content punishes the “vulnerable” group instead of focusing on those who are actually doing the bullying.
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Why not give people the chance to share their content and just have great policies in place if bullying *does* occur? (Unlike some other social media apps *cough* Twitter *cough*.)
Lizzo is just out here living her life like the GD queen that she is. So seriously TikTok, just let her thrive.
FLARE reached out to TikTok for comment on this story and, as of publication, has not received a response.