TikTok tightens rules to ban transphobic behavior

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TikTok is changing its definition of hate speech to include dead names and gender errors, as part of an overhaul of the video app’s Community Guidelines aimed at stamping out transphobia and other harmful behaviors. The platform owned by ByteDance Ltd. also tightened its rules to ban videos that promote conversion therapy — attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity — as well as eating disorders and dangerous tendencies such as “suicidal hoaxes”.

“While these ideologies have long been banned on TikTok, we’ve heard from creators and civil society organizations that it’s important to be explicit in our community guidelines,” said Cormac Keenan, Head of Trust and TikTok security, in a blog post. The updated guidelines now ban content that specifically targets transgender or non-binary people by referring to them in a way that doesn’t align with their gender identity, he said.

TikTok’s explosive growth has made it a vital platform for teens and young people, subjecting its guidelines to increasing scrutiny. Its success has also forced its rivals to scramble to keep up. After posting disappointing results last week, Meta Platforms Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to focus more on Reels, the company’s short-form video feature that resembles TikTok. The company has struggled to attract and retain younger users on its flagship Facebook service.

TikTok recently made it easier for users to include their pronouns in their user bios, following in the footsteps of Instagram and Facebook. With the name change dead, videos referring to transgender people by their names given at birth would be considered hate speech violations. At the same time, the company aims to protect content from marginalized groups who reappropriate terms – for example, a racial slur – that would typically be used to denigrate them, or who use hate speech for educational purposes. .

Of the 91.4 million videos TikTok said it removed from the platform due to violations between June and September 2021, 1.5% were classified as hateful content and 5.4% were removed for bullying and harassment. It is not yet clear how the updated rules would change the number of violations. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sarah Kate Ellis, head of advocacy group GLAAD, applauded the change, saying on Twitter that it “raises the standard of LGBTQ safety online and sends a message that other platforms that claim to prioritize LGBTQ safety should follow suit with substantive actions like these.” The organization had criticized TikTok in a May 2021 report for improperly blocking LGBTQ videos and allegedly banning certain content – ​​downplaying content so fewer people see it.

Affirming transgender and non-binary youth by respectfully using their names and pronouns can have a positive effect on their mental health, according to a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization. Twenty-four percent of transgender and non-binary respondents who experienced discrimination on the basis of their gender identity said they had attempted suicide in the past year, twice the rate of those who did not. have not done. And while 71% of transgender and non-binary youth said they found spaces for gender affirmation online, LGBTQ youth said social media had both a positive and negative effect on their well-being.

“It’s incredibly important that young LGBTQ people have access to spaces of affirmation – which can often be online communities within platforms like TikTok – where they are loved and respected for who they are,” said Josh Weaver, Vice President of Marketing at Trevor. Project. He called the platform update a “step in the right direction” and agreed with Ellis that other platforms should take similar steps.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also urged tech platforms to make changes in a December 2021 report regarding youth mental health. “Senior tech executives should recognize that their products can harm some young people and take material, measurable steps to prevent and mitigate that harm, even at the expense of engagement, scale, and profit,” a- he writes. “Leaders should be responsible for creating a safe, accessible and inclusive digital environment for their users and for designing safe products.”

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