Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

TikTok Says That It Removed 89 Million Videos in the Second Half of 2020, Most Before They Were Ever Seen

Michael Beckerman and Eric Han of TikTok:

89,132,938 videos were removed globally in the second half of 2020 for violating our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service, which is less than 1% of all videos uploaded on TikTok. Of these videos, 11,775,777 were removed in the US.

92.4% of these videos were removed before a user reported them, 83.3% were removed before they received any views, and 93.5% were removed within 24 hours of being posted.

[…]

51,505 videos were removed for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. Of these videos, 86% were removed before they were reported to us, 87% were removed within 24 hours of being uploaded to TikTok, and 71% had zero views.

TikTok credits its automated systems for detecting violating videos before they were viewed. For comparison, around 94% of YouTube videos were automatically flagged, but only around 40% were removed with zero views.

TikTok’s moderation efforts do come with a bit of an asterisk, however, because the platform is owned by ByteDance, which also runs Douyin, the version of TikTok only available in China.

A former ByteDance moderator referred to by the pseudonym Li An recently told their story to Shen Lu of Protocol:

The truth is, political speech comprised a tiny fraction of deleted content. Chinese netizens are fluent in self-censorship and know what not to say. ByteDance’s platforms — Douyin, Toutiao, Xigua and Huoshan — are mostly entertainment apps. We mostly censored content the Chinese government considers morally hazardous — pornography, lewd conversations, nudity, graphic images and curse words — as well as unauthorized livestreaming sales and content that violated copyright.

[…]

It was certainly not a job I’d tell my friends and family about with pride. When they asked what I did at ByteDance, I usually told them I deleted posts (删帖). Some of my friends would say, “Now I know who gutted my account.” The tools I helped create can also help fight dangers like fake news. But in China, one primary function of these technologies is to censor speech and erase collective memories of major events, however infrequently this function gets used.

For clarity, TikTok and Douyin are entirely separate platforms. But one of the reasons TikTok’s moderation efforts are so effective — especially for a platform that has grown dramatically in such a short period of time — is, basically, because they have to be.