Why racist content is so prevalent on TikTok

Why racist content is so prevalent on TikTok

According to a study, some features of the platform allow you to bypass moderation and broadcast pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic and white supremacist videos

Photo: via Unsplash We are underestimating TikTok as a vehicle for extremist content, according to what emerges from one study published in recent days by the Institute for strategic dialogue (Isd), a think tank based in London that deals with monitoring hate online. The analysis, called Hatescape, the researchers say, is the largest study ever conducted on this specific issue and the results are not comforting.

Of the 1,030 TikTok videos collected in June from a database of keywords and that the researchers analyzed, 312 (nearly a third) had racist content attributable to white supremacists. Half were pro-Nazi, and some clips supported conspiracy theories of white genocide.

Three of the 10 most popular videos, viewed 3.5 million times in total, were clips originally produced by Paul Miller, a extremist known as Gypsy Crusader who spreads racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media, already known to justice. The institute also found an alarming number of videos filled with offensive content targeting women, migrants, refugees, Asian, Muslim and Jewish people or members of the LGBT + community.

The risks of exposure to violence

From what emerges from the study, these videos often manage to reach the main For You feed of the social network. The researchers warned that exposure to extremism is particularly dangerous because TikTok is popular with children and adolescents.

The problem, however, does not seem to be the guidelines of the community, which categorically prohibit the dissemination of racist, violent and discriminatory contents towards minorities. Researchers say TikTok has learned from the problems Facebook and Twitter have had with this type of content and has put in place comprehensive policies. But, explains the curator of the report Ciaran O'Connor, there is a "significant application gap" compared to the other two social networks, so there is still a long way to go.

For example, the Institute for strategic dialogue says that TikTok does remove content that promotes hatred of minorities or white supremacism, but not in a consistent and systematic way. Only 18.5% of all videos analyzed in the research (around 191) were removed from TikTok by the end of the period the researchers collected the data, while the rest remained active. The social media said in response to the release of the report that all reported videos were then deleted.

How to get around moderation

Although TikTok previously claimed to remove the overwhelming majority of content that violates its policies within 24 hours, the study shows instead that users use different methods to evade moderation and these are mainly integrated features of the platform.

The Stitch or Duet function of the app allows you to combine prohibited material with other videos, which in some cases appear safe enough to avoid moderation. Many extremist accounts then use the profile grid layout and background music to spread their propaganda on the platform, in a more subtle way. Otherwise, just change a letter in a prohibited phrase or the name of the account, or, again, misspell a hashtag, in order not to be immediately traced. Researchers also reported banned content reloaded by other users or cases of banned profiles appearing with only a slightly changed name.

A spokesperson for TikTok said social media highly appreciated the research produced by Isd, arguing that it can help “strengthen the way we apply our policies to keep our platform safe and welcoming”. Extremist and supremacist content, however, does not seem to be the only problem for TikTok moderators. In recent days another study conducted by Media Matters has shown how the TikTok algorithm favors the circulation of videos that contained misinformation and hoaxes on Covid-19 and vaccines.

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Racism Security Social media Social Networks Tiktok online violence globalData.fldTopic = "Racism, Security, Social media, Social Networks, Tiktok, online violence"

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