TikTok suspended a teen girl who posted a series of viral videos that appeared to be makeup tutorials but actually aggressively condemned the Chinese government for its mass oppression of Uighur Muslims.
But the video-sharing app claims it suspended her because she had previously posted a video about the terrorist Osama bin Laden, not because of her posts attacking China.
Feroza Aziz went viral on Monday after posting three videos that looked like advice on how to curl your eyelashes but actually called on viewers to “be aware” of China’s coordinated crackdown on Uighur Muslims.
“Hi, guys. I’m going to teach you guys how to get long lashes,” she began one video, posted under the handle @getmefamouspartthree.
“So the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes, obviously, then you’re going to put them down and use your phone that you’re using right now to search up what’s happening in China, how they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there, separating their families from each other, kidnapping them, murdering them, raping them, forcing them to eat pork, forcing them to drink, forcing them to convert to different religions, if not, or else they’re going to, of course, get murdered.”
A post shared by Feroza Aziz🧿 (@ferozzaaa) on Nov 25, 2019 at 2:25pm PST
Aziz was referring to the mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority in the western region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan.
Her charges against China mostly match those made by rights groups, news outlets, and former prisoners, though there is no indication that China is murdering its detainees.
Even while posting the videos, she appeared aware that TikTok could crack down on them. In another video in the series, she said: “Hey, guys. You wanted a second part to the video on how to get longer lashes, so here it is. And by the way, I say that so TikTok doesn’t take down my videos.” She then discussed China’s oppression of Uighurs.
Shortly after the videos were posted, she received a message from TikTok saying that her account had been “temporarily suspended due to multiple violations of our Community Guidelines,” she tweeted.
The message did not specify which guidelines the teenager had violated. Her videos remained live on Tuesday on her TikTok feed, which had not been updated since her protest videos.
TikTok on Tuesday said Aziz’s account was suspended not because of the protest videos but because she had posted a video of bin Laden — the Al Qaeda chief who engineered the September 11, 2001, attacks — on a previous account.
“TikTok does not moderate content due to political sensitivities,” a company spokesman told Business Insider in a statement.
“In this case, the user’s previous account and associated device were banned after she posted a video of Osama Bin Laden, which is a violation of TikTok’s ban on promoting terrorists.”
A source familiar with the case told Business Insider that Aziz had posted a video related to bin Laden on an account called @getmefamousplzsir.
This, they said, was the cause of the ban. The source declined to explain what exactly the bin Laden video showed.
The source said that Aziz responded to the ban by making a second account, where she posted the anti-China videos.
She received the ban notice because of a technical error in which suspended users who open new accounts do not immediately have their devices blocked, the source said, adding that the timing of the suspension message and the anti-China videos was a coincidence.
Aziz did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment on the suspension.
TikTok is facing increasing criticism over its treatment of politically sensitive content on its platform.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company from Beijing. Chinese tech companies often comply with orders from the government.