A 17-year-old Afghan girl’s TikTok video — which started under the pretense of a makeup tutorial and switched into a wake-up call regarding China’s Muslim concentration camps real quick — went viral over the weekend.
Earlier this week, a New Jersey-based Afghan teenager posted on TikTok what was presented as a three-part tutorial on how to get longer eyelashes but bait-and-switched to a quick lesson about China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim population.
The ban has renewed questions about censorship on the third-most downloaded application TikTok developed by a Chinese company called ByteDance.
Feroza started off the ‘makeup-tutorial’ simply enough. “So, the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes, obviously,” she says. Once the bait was given, she quickly switched to the real topic, highlighting about Uyghur Muslims, saying, “Then you’re gonna put [the curler] down and use your phone that you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in China. How they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there, separating their families from each other, kidnapping them, murdering them, raping them … This is another Holocaust, yet no one is talking about it.”
Aziz says she sandwiched her political commentary between beauty tutorials to dodge censorship she anticipated from the china-based platform.
Two days after her first video went viral, she tweeted that she had been suspended from TikTok for a month.
Aziz wrote on her Twitter she had been blocked from posting on TikTok for a month, but added: “This won’t silence me.”
I am blocked from posting on tik tok for a month. This won’t silence me.
— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 25, 2019
“I emailed them about this, and they never got back to me,” said Aziz. “I woke up on Monday and saw [I was banned], and was like, wow, okay.”
People were outraged when they heard about the ban. They said the app’s Chinese developer, ByteDance, was censoring anything that went against the Chinese Communist Party.
After the incident quickly gained traction, TikTok cleared the air with a blog post saying there had been ‘confusion’.
In an official statement, Tiktok confirmed that it banned Aziz — though it denied it was because of her beauty tutorial-cum-wake up call on behalf of Ughiur Muslims.
Instead, it claimed Aziz’s phone was banned from using TikTok because it was used to upload another video to her previous account, which had included an image of Osama bin Laden. Moreover, it acknowledged that although upon further probe, it was revealed that the user may have meant it as a satire.
TikTok further explained that the Uighur video was posted to Ms. Aziz’s second account, but that a “scheduled platform-wide enforcement” had blocked her device and stopped her accessing both accounts because of the Bin Laden meme.
The company later apologized to Feroza for the honest mistake on their part and re-activated her account
On Wednesday evening, TikTok posted an apology to Aziz on their website for banning her from the platform.
“We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part this morning,” said the post by TikTok’s head of safety, Eric Han
The company reinstated her TikTok account but maintained that removing her viral video about Ughiur Muslims was a human error and not an effort to silence her message.
In the blog post, TikTok said the viral video was removed “due to a human moderation error,” and that the video was reinstated minutes later after a “senior member of our moderation team identified the error.”
“In total, the video was offline for 50 minutes,” the company said in the post.
In response to TikTok’s statement, Aziz took it to Twitter, saying she didn’t believe the company.
After the company explained how there had been a conufsion and the ban was merely a human error, Aziz tweeted saying she does not believe TikTok’s stated reasons for banning her.
UPDATE: tik tok has issued a public apology and gave me my account back. Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No. pic.twitter.com/ehUpSJiyy1
— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 27, 2019
“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No.”
Aziz affirmed this isn’t the first time her account has been taken down or had videos removed. She believes many of them got reported by other users which ended up banning her previous account too. (The video about China was posted on Saturday from a new account.)
“For my last account, I had multiple videos taken down, and all the videos taken down were my Muslim videos — me making jokes Muslims could laugh about, relatable Muslim content,” she added. “That’s just how TikTok is. There’s always people that report things.”
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