TikTok is stepping up efforts to counter the spread of hate speech on its platform. But it’s still playing catch-up with other social-media companies, including ones that have been criticized for their handling of the issue. The company announced Thursday that it’s improving its hate-speech policies, providing more transparency and investing in partnerships to help police misconduct. It’s also removed more than 380,000 videos that promote “hateful content or behavior,” such as the denial of the Holocaust or slavery.
But there’s still much ground to be covered. According to a recent study from IPG Mediabrands — a firm owned by advertising giant Interpublic Group — TikTok ranked the lowest in media responsibility out of all social-media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. The report rated the companies based on 10 measures, including the promotion of respect, data collection and advertising transparency. YouTube was ranked highest, though none of the services had stellar scores, Mediabrands found. Hate speech was one of the areas where TikTok performed the lowest out of its peers — a failing that the company acknowledged this week.
“We recognize the perhaps insurmountable challenge to completely eliminate hate on TikTok,” Eric Han, the service’s head of safety in the U.S., said in a blog post. Of course, TikTok faces a pretty big distraction as it tries to rein in misconduct. The White House has been escalating pressure on its Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., calling for a complete shutdown of TikTok’s U.S. operations or a sale of the app. That’s left TikTok in the awkward position of trying to refine its service while also avoiding a ban. In an interview this week, senior executive Vanessa Pappas said there were “multiple paths” to continue operating in the U.S. On the hate-speech front, TikTok’s announcement indicates that it is taking a “step in the right direction,” said Joshua Lowcock, global chief brand safety officer at Mediabrands. Hate speech was “one of the areas they significantly under-performed in the market.”
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