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Chinese-owned app TikTok apologises for removing viral clip which was critical of Beijing

TikTok initially denied it removed the clip but later admitted it, claiming it was done in human error.

Image: Shutterstock/XanderSt

CHINESE-OWNED APP TikTok has admitted it briefly removed a viral video that condemned Beijing’s crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang and apologised to the US teen who posted the clip.

In a post that has now been seen 1.6 million times, Feroza Aziz begins talking about eyelash curling but quickly switches to decrying China’s mass detention of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities in its far northwest.

Aziz said this week that she had been blocked from posting on the app for a month after uploading the clip, then noted on Twitter on Wednesday that the video had been taken down.

As her posts on various platforms racked up millions of combined views, TikTok, which has previously been accused of censoring content that Beijing does not like, insisted it had not blocked her and that her videos were still available.

But on Wednesday the company admitted having temporarily removed the video “due to a human moderation error”.

The company said the video was restored around 50 minutes later after “a senior member of our moderation team identified the error and reinstated it immediately”.

“It’s important to clarify that nothing in our Community Guidelines precludes content such as this video, and it should not have been removed,” the statement said.

“We would like to apologize to the user for the error on our part.”

Human rights groups and outside experts say more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been rounded up in a network of internment camps across the fractious region of Xinjiang.

China, after initially denying the camps existed, now describes them as vocational schools aimed at dampening the allure of Islamist extremism and violence through education and job training.

TikTok said they have also unblocked a previous account owned by Aziz that was barred for a video featuring Osama bin Laden, which it said breached rules on posted imagery related to terrorist organisations, even if “intended as satire”.

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On Wednesday the group said it had “decided to override the device ban in this case”.

Aziz, who describes herself as “17 Just a Muslim”, said she was not convinced that the account being blocked was not related to her Xinjiang video.

“Do I believe they took it away because of an 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,” she wrote on Twitter.

- © AFP 2019

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