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The app, which is quite popular in China and famous especially among young people and teenagers, has also been facing problems with international governments, which have even asked Apple and Google to remove the program from their stores. Check out, in the list below, six policas in which TikTok was involved in 2019.
TikTok faced several controversies in 2019 Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / TechTudo
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1. Process for breach of privacy
A collective action was filed in a California court in the United States, claiming that TikTok would be collecting data from users without their knowing it and sending the information to servers in China.
The principle of the controversy was university student Misty Hong, who claims to have downloaded the app in mid-March and April this year, even exploring the features and making some video drafts, but without creating an account on the service. It is worth remembering that TikTok allows you to watch random videos in the feed without creating a profile on the network, the registration requested only when the user posts a video of his own.
The student claims that, months later, she discovered that the app had created an account for her, with the username "user", followed by a string of random characters. The account password was your phone number. According to her, TikTok had also recorded the videos she came to edit in draft mode, as well as a large amount of other private data, biometric information and digitalization of the face obtained from facial recognition tests in video.
The lawsuit in the US court says that TikTok "secretly aspired and transferred large amounts of data from private, personally identifiable users to servers in China". In addition, the action identified two Chinese servers that would be storing the information. They would be linked to Tencent and Alibaba, the country's technology giants.
TikTok says it stores all user data from the United States in the state of Virginia, in the country itself, with backups in Singapore.
2. Shadowbanning of people with disabilities
TikTok has been accused of limiting the reach of publications featuring people with disabilities, facial disfigurement, autism and Down syndrome. According to the complaint, its employees were instructed to mark videos of these people and segment them as "special users". Obese and people of minority gender identities were also affected.
TikTok reduces the reach of publications for people with disabilities, autism and Down syndrome Photo: Reproduction / Unsplash
When a video that contains one of these profiles starts to gain repercussions on the network, reaching between 6 and 10 thousand views, the moderators signal the file as "special" they have about 30 seconds to judge and decide if the video should really be marked or at the. The videos are not excluded from the platform, but they no longer appear in the "For You" tab, which shows interesting random videos for the user. In this way, these clips no longer reach a good audience.
TikTok claimed that measures are taken following the app?s content moderation policies, with the aim of protecting these people from bullying, for having, according to the company, vulnerable profiles. According to company guidelines, the app can limit the range of videos posted by people "susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on your physical or mental condition ".
3. Girl banned for political video
A video that seemed common shows a young woman teaching her followers to use an eyelash curler. Moments later, she says, "Use the phone you're currently using to research what's going on in China." For the remainder of the video, 17-year-old Afghan girl Feroza Aziz continues to video criticizing the Chinese government, claiming that the authorities are placing innocent Muslims in concentration camps, separating them from their families. The video gained millions of views on TikTok and spread to other social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Shortly thereafter, the young woman reported that she was no longer able to access her TikTok account. According to her, an error message said that the profile was "temporarily suspended". Aziz, then, believes that he is being repressed by the application, which is based in China, and that the app is censoring opinions against the Chinese Communist Party.
A TikTok spokesman said the video had not been removed, and that the young woman's account had been suspended because of an old video posted by her, in which there was a mention of the terrorist Osama Bin Laden, unrelated to the video. concerned. "TikTok does not moderate the content due to political sensitivities," said the statement. As of the date of publication of this article, Aziz's video is available on TikTok and can be watched by any user.
4. App fined for data collection from children
In February, Musical.ly (name of the app before being purchased by Byte Dance) was fined by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consumer protection agency by $ 5.7 million. 21 million, in direct conversion at the time), on suspicion of collecting personal data from children.
At the time, the app did not ask for any proof of age during registration. TikTok then launched security features in the United States to make the environment safe for children, offering special privacy settings for younger users.
In a note, TikTok said it works in partnership with the FTC to create a safe environment for younger users: "We fully cooperated with the FTC during the investigation of the Musical.ly app in the USA and are pleased to reach a resolution. We care deeply about the security and privacy of our users and continue to explore ways to expand and evolve our protection measures. "
5. Indian government calls for removal of app from Apple and Google stores
In April, the Indian government ordered Apple and Google to remove TikTok from the App Store and Google Play Store. The reason would be the great dissemination of pornographic material and encouraging pedophilia within the platform. The measure was taken at the request of an action brought by a group of activists in the East Indian city court in Chennai, which called for a ban on the use of the app in the country.
TikTok defended itself saying that it had removed 6 million videos that violated its guidelines in India, and reinforced its commitment to ensuring that the platform was a safe and positive space. The action also raised the issue of excessive demands and censorship in the digital environment by the government.
According to the Reuters, Google removed TikTok from Indian stores, but the app could still be used on smartphones where it was already installed. At the time, Apple did not respond to the request. Currently, the application is released in the country.
Government of India ordered the removal of TikTok from the app store Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / TechTudo
6. United States investigates TikTok for content influence
Following allegations of breach of privacy and content censorship, the United States government requested an investigation into TikTok and possible national security risks. The authorities would be concerned that the Chinese company is censoring political videos and sending personal data from Americans to China.
Among the arguments used by the American senators who requested the investigations is the existence of few videos of protests related to the Chinese government. "(There are on TikTok) only a few videos of the Hong Kong protests that have dominated international headlines for months," said Senator Marco Rubio. Congressmen also suggested that TikTok could be the target of campaigns of foreign influence.
The investigation will also analyze the purchase transaction for TikTok, previously called Musical.ly, by the Chinese company ByteDance, an operation carried out two years ago and which cost US $ 1 billion. During the agreement, the company did not approach the Foreign Investment Committee in the United States, which is responsible for analyzing negotiations with foreign buyers. The lack of signaling to the body opens the door for the United States to investigate the operation.
On Twitter, Senator Marco Rubio, who requested an investigation into the purchase of TikTok, tweeted: "Any platform owned by a company in China that collects large amounts of data about Americans is a potentially serious threat to our country."
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, one of TikTok's biggest competitors, also criticized the app for censorship concerns.
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