TikTok on a cell phone (symbolic image): It is sometimes unclear to users whether their comment can be seen by others
Photo: MANJUNATH KIRAN/ AFP
Millions of comments are posted on TikTok every day.
But anyone who comments on a video there as a user from Germany obviously cannot be sure that their opinion is really visible to others.
As the Tagesschau website reports, the video app uses automatic word filters to stop the spread of comments on certain topics.
In a test with a total of 70 words and word combinations, Tagesschau.de identified at least 20 comment components that apparently ensure that a post is hidden.
TikTok uses so-called »shadow banning« for potentially problematic comments: the comment is visible to the commenter, but it is hidden from the rest of the users.
The user can therefore not use their own account to determine whether a post they have posted is public or not.
NDR, WDR and the Tagesschau had already reported on the word filter in February.
At that time, among other things, it was about TikTok hiding posts in the context of National Socialism from other users.
According to the report at the time, the video app's filters responded to the words "Auschwitz" and "National Socialism," which apparently no longer lead to a blanket "shadow banning" of a comment.
Other terms such as "heterosexual", "gay", "gay", "sex", "porn", "LGBTQ" and "prostitution" caused comments to be hidden in both February and September, according to the research.
"Crystal meth" is apparently okay, "cocaine" isn't
A stringent filter pattern could not be seen in the September test by NDR, WDR and Tagesschau: TikTok is said to have hidden comments with the terms “cannabis” and “cocaine” several times, but not “crystal meth” and “ecstasy”.
However, comments containing the words "climate crisis" and "climate change" were "in most cases" hidden during the test, even though they had no connection to youth protection rules.
According to the report, TikTok's filters also responded in some cases to words from the context of the Ukraine war, such as "troops" or "international law".
According to TikTok, it has 20 million users in Germany.
More than half of the 12 to 19 year olds are active on the platform.
The company said it wants to moderate comments in a more nuanced way in the future and encourage a welcoming community environment.
TikTok further explained to the Tagesschau that it is suspected that the large number of comments posted in the test could have led to some of these comments being classified as spam in a relatively short time.
"In this case, comments that didn't violate our community guidelines were incorrectly flagged as potentially harmful," the company said.
TikTok will continue to train its automated systems to ensure fair and consistent moderation.
TikTok had already made a similar statement in February.