TikTok Criticized For Contradictory Policy on “Boogaloo” Videos

Is the video app not enforcing its own content guidelines?

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TikTok's own policies should guard against extremist activity, and yet.
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Tobias Carroll / June 6, 2020 5:12 pm

What happens when a popular social media company must wrestle with its own rules and regulations? It’s a controversy that nearly every prominent tech company in this space has had to deal with over the last few years, with Twitter being one recent example. Now, a wildly popular app is facing a challenge over its internal politics — and it’s via an issue that touches directly on the current state of American politics.

The app in question is the video app TikTok. At media watchdog Media Matters for America, Alex Kaplan notes a disturbing trend: a growing number of videos centered around the alt-right movement known as Boogaloo. You’ve probably heard about this movement earlier this year — their members have embraced a bizarre aesthetic that brings together Hawaiian shirts and talk of a second Civil War.

Boogaloo has been in the news somewhat lately due to the presence of some of its adherents at recent protests against police brutality. A recent CNN report on the movement observes that its members “have at least two things in common: an affinity for toting around guns in public and a ‘boogaloo’ rallying cry, which is commonly viewed as code for another US civil war.” Last month, Boogaloo was also a presence at the lockdown protests held in a number of state capitals.

Kaplan’s article at Media Matters focuses on another element of Boogaloo: its online presence. Specifically, its presence on TikTok, which updated its guidelines earlier this year:

One of the expanded sections is on “dangerous individuals and organizations,” and it prohibits “dangerous individuals or organizations” from using TikTok to “promote terrorism, crime, or other types of behavior that could cause harm.”

Media Matters’ investigation found a large number of videos on the platform which seemed to violate TikTok’s own policies. The videos included displays of firearms and violent rhetoric — one of the videos mentioned in the article features an armed man talking about Boogaloo and making a reference to “becoming more and more willing to die.”

It’s unclear what action TikTok will take here — though Kaplan notes that this is far from the first time TikTok has had inconsistencies in its content moderation. Nonetheless, the stakes feel particularly high here.

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