TikTok does not want to end up like Facebook.
The social media company made that clear Thursday, laying out a five-pronged approach it hopes will eventually “eliminate hate on TikTok.” But lest you get too ahead of yourself, the announcement, written by TikTok Head of Safety Eric Han, makes clear that the platform and its unnamed moderators are still figuring things out as they go.
“We recognize the perhaps insurmountable challenge to completely eliminate hate on TikTok – but that won’t stop us from trying,” wrote Han. “Every bit of progress we make gets us that much closer to a more welcoming community experience for people on TikTok and out in the world.”
Notably, there is some real progress contained with the announcement — at least when compared to Facebook. Take, for example, TikTok’s stance on Holocaust deniers: “we remove race-based harassment and the denial of violent tragedies, such as the Holocaust and slavery.”
For comparison, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has defended Holocaust deniers’ right to use his platform, claiming that he doesn’t believe Holocaust deniers are “intentionally” getting the facts wrong (Zuckerberg later tried to half-heartedly walk back that shocking statement).
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Holocaust deniers misrepresent the historical record in order to advance white supremacy, “rehabilitate the Nazi regime,” and “provide a foundation for much of the antisemitism permeating the radical right.”
As recently as July of this year, the Anti-Defamation League called out Facebook for its ongoing Holocaust denial problem.
But back to TikTok. The five-pronged approach that Han announced today involves the following key elements: “Evolving our hate speech policy,” “Countering hateful speech, behavior, and groups,” “Increasing cultural awareness in our content moderation,” “Improving transparency with our community,” and “Investing in our teams and partnerships.”
In addition to taking the above steps to address the nebulous problem of “hate” on its platform, Han insisted that the company is already doing a lot to combat it.
“Since the start of 2020, we’ve removed more than 380,000 videos in the US for violating our hate speech policy,” he wrote. “We also banned more than 1,300 accounts for hateful content or behavior, and removed over 64,000 hateful comments.”
Surely, as with any online platform, what TikTok has managed to remove is only the tip of the iceberg. Still, it will be interesting to see what moderating decisions a company makes when it is unburdened by dubious commitments to the 1st Amendment.