Get-hooked December 10, 2019
TikTok criticised for blocking content for disabled users, decision unfair says community
TikTok is very popular amongst youngsters. So it’s disappointing news that the video sharing app has admitted to deliberately blocking content from users with disabilities. TikTok has admitted that it was a wrong move. Many disabled users say the decision only serves to punish them rather than the people who behave in an abusive way.
Music, videos, games – Everything is now available as mobile apps in a fun and exciting manner. One of the most popular ones is Chinese short video sharing app TikTok. Recently, TikTok admitted to deliberately blocking content from users with disabilities. They claim this was to stop cyber bullying. They claim users with disabilities are more prone to harassment on the app.
Need for inclusion
The explanation has gone down poorly with many members of the disabled community. Many say they feel side lined. The explanation does sound bizarre in the context of the huge popularity enjoyed by TikTok stars like wheelchair user Geet Chauhan. Geet has two channels on TikTok since 2018 and has built a following of millions. Her inspirational videos are a hit among people with and without disabilities.
Preetha Thonnakkal, a wheelchair user from Kerala, is a TikTok fan. Her vides are loved for the fun and happy elements.
I have not had a bad experience with TikTok. My videos are viewed by my friends after I share them on Facebook. This is like a fun activity for me when I am bored. TikTok should be supporting their disabled users. They are the ones who needs encouragement and support. It is quite disheartening to know that officials of such a popular app are trying to bring their disabled users down- Preetha Thonnakkal, TikTok User
Revelations from makers
A leaked TikTok’s rule book threw up some shocking findings. It said videos of people with Down syndrome, autism or other facial disfigurements must be removed and suppressed. Their viewership had to be restricted and videos of such users were not to be popularised. Moderators were also asked to prevent the videos from appearing on the app’s main feed.
Shaji, who has muscular dystrophy and is popular on the music app Smule, is disappointed by the news. “I don’t use TikTok, ibut t is sad to see such a popular app trying to bring down their disabled users. Social media, if used right, can bring many benefits. It offers space for entertainment and fun”, he says.
By targeting disabled people who are victims of bullying and abuse instead of those who promote such behaviour, TikTok is guilty of further victimising the community and deserves to be called out.
This is just the latest in a series of controversies to affect the video app in recent weeks. Earlier this year, there were reports that the app was used to ban political content that could be used to criticise the Chinese government. More recently, TikTok had to say sorry to an American teen for removing a video where she accused China of mistreating its Muslims.
Clearly, despite being on social media, TikTok needs lessons on what free speech and expression in its full sense really means.
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