Big Tech’s conglomerating size, wealth and power in the global information war have prompted investigations at the federal and state level, in a bipartisan effort to regulate the monopolistic, anti-competitive digital marketplace.
President Trump has pledged to probe whether Google is nefariously compromising U.S. national security by colluding with the Chinese military.
Now, TikTok, China’s leading social media network, is under fire for deliberately censoring content showcasing the communist country’s brutalization of Chinese citizens in an effort to moderate “hate speech and religion.”
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, TikTok instructs its employees in its policy guidelines to remove posts featuring sensitive topics, including depictions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, “incidents” exhibiting the Cambodian genocide, the 1998 riots in Indonesia, and other topics exposing China’s totalitarian savagery.
TikTok’s guidelines also explicitly prohibit its users from mentioning “20 ‘foreign leaders or sensitive figures’ including Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung, Mahatma Gandhi, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Kim Jong-un, Shinzo Abe, Park Geun-Hee, Joko Widodo and Narendra Modi. Notably absent from the list is Xi Jinping, the Chinese chairman,” the Guardian reports.
Users who breach the company’s inhibited guidelines are shadowbanned, rather than deleting the posts, TicTok’s moderators employ algorithms to limit the reach and visibility of the posts.
Any mention of the Falun Gong, a meditative spiritual practice outlawed by an antireligious campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, results in users getting banned from the platform.
ByteDance, which owns TikTok, maintains it retired the oppressive regulations in the Spring of 2019, telling the Guardian its guidelines were used to preemptively “[minimize] conflict on the platform” and insists TikTok is a platform for entertainment, not politics.
Yet, an investigation published Sept. 15 by the left-leaning Washington Post reveals a search of content related to Hong Kong’s pro-democratic protests and civil unrest in the country, entering its 16th straight week, appear nowhere on TikTok’s platform, which is globally installed by 1.3 billion users.
“A search for “#hongkong” on Twitter reveals a vast visual patchwork of the city’s unavoidable protests, including pro-China agitprop, sympathetic memes and imagery from the hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy marchers who have braved police crackdowns,” WaPo reports. “But the same searches for Hong Kong on TikTok, the short-video app from a Beijing-based tech giant that has gone viral in the U.S., reveal a remarkably different — and, for the Chinese government, more politically convenient — version of reality: playful selfies, food photos and singalongs, with barely a hint of unrest in sight.”
According to the Post:
The #antielab hashtag, a central organizing post named for protesters’ resistance to an extradition bill seen as weakening Hong Kong sovereignty, has more than 34,000 posts on Instagram but only 11 posts on TikTok, totaling about 3,000 views. The hashtags for #HongKongProtests and #HongKongProtestors, some of the biggest rallying points on Twitter, return either a single video or an error message: “Couldn’t find this hashtag: Check out trending videos.” The #HongKongProtest hashtag showed six videos, totaling about 5,000 views.
The Hong Kong protests, in which insurgents are burning the Chinese national flag and singing their new anthem, exemplifies the first challenge the nation’s Communist Party faces in concealing its authoritarian despotism amid the spotlight of the internet’s global power, contends a Hong Kong-based Human Rights Watch researcher.
“They are making the commercial media repost or reproduce what has been produced by state media. And they are forcing censorship to create a narrative in the sense that this is not what happened,” Human Rights Watch Yaqui Wang told WaPo. “For Chinese companies, the government has so much control. You have no choice. If it’s politically sensitive, your company is in jeopardy.”
Meanwhile, Chinese-style precept is permeating Big Tech in the United States. Renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel has repeatedly sounded the alarm on Google’s collaborative project with China involving military technology, dubbed “Deep Mind.”
Theil is demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency investigate the company’s activities with China in developing Deep Mind, warning the venture poses a national security threat akin to The Manhattan Project.
Google, which has drawn scrutiny for biasing search results against conservatives, artificially promoting left-wing causes and smearing and blacklisting conservatives, is treasonously working with China to weaponize artificial intelligence, Theil cautioned.
“There’s this very peculiar background where Google is working with the Chinese Communist government and not with the U.S. military,” he told Fox News in July. “The Project Maven decision was a decision not to work with the A.I., with the U.S. military – but they’re working with the Communist Chinese.”
President Trump subsequently pledged his administration will launch an investigation into Google’s relationship with China.