According to research by the online portal Netzpolitik.org, until a few weeks ago, the Chinese video platform TikTok has reduced the visibility of videos showing people with disabilities.
This should protect these people, who according to TikTok's internal assessment are "highly vulnerable to cyberbullying", from cyberbullying, Netzpolitik.org reports with reference to "internal moderation rules" and a source within the company. It is the meanwhile third revelation of the portal to TikToks partly questionable handling with contents.
According to the new report, TikTok instructed its moderators to mark videos of people with disabilities and limit their reach. We are talking about users for whom TikTok "on the basis of their physical or mental condition" assumed that they would be the target of attacks.
Because bullying has been proven to have dire consequences for those affected, TikTok moderators were instructed to view videos of such users as a risk, Netzpolitik.org said. Even LGBT and fat people have landed on a list of "special users: inside" - apparently independent of their content.
30 seconds and 15-second clips for remote diagnostics
The rules were valid at least until September, writes Netzpolitik.org. On average, moderators would have had to decide within 30 seconds whether a video would show a "disfigured face", "autism" or "down syndrome", for example.
"The rules initially irritate on a very practical level," Chris Köver and Markus Reuter comment: "How should a moderator recognize whether someone who shares a 15-second video snippet on TikTok has an autistic spectrum disorder?"
The procedure is "overbearing and exclusionary", quoted Netzpolitik.org the organization Ability Watch, which is committed to the needs of people with disabilities. These are in any case under-represented in the media, which is transferred from "misunderstood and unnecessary care" to "new digital platforms". Other organizations also commented critically.
"This approach was never intended to be a long-term solution, and while we have a good intent, it became clear to us that this is not the right approach," said a TikTok spokeswoman Netzpolitik.org. The regulations have now been replaced by new, nuanced rules. According to the online portal, she did not want to give details.