ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, maintains several lists of words on its various apps that it uses for content moderation, including references to China, the Uyghur genocide, Taiwan independence, and former President Donald Trump, Forbes reported.
While such moderation lists are often used by social media platforms to monitor questionable content like abuse, harassment, or child pornography, the lists found in the ByteDance internal moderation guide tool also include politically “sensitive words.”
According to Forbes, the ByteDance lists include a variety of titles like “Theming Strategies of Uyghur-Han Couples,” “Trump Directed Prohibited Words,” and “TikTok audio sensitive words in Tibet region.”
Additional titles include references to China’s President Xi Jinping, YouTube domestic surveillance, China’s strategic policy, and government affairs. Restrictions are also placed on what ByteDance describes as “core redline vocabulary,” including any references to “6/4,” the date of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
The guide to the ByteDance tool that contains the lists was written by ByteDance employees in China and employees from Jiyun Hudong, ByteDance’s Beijing subsidiary. The guide describes the moderation tool as the company’s “global core vocabulary” which includes “sensitive words with high risk,” and its “global commonly used thesaurus,” which includes “fully classified” illegal words.
According to Forbes, over 50 of the lists in ByteDance’s guide tool include the word “TikTok” or “U.S.” in the title. Other lists make explicit references to TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin, along with the other ByteDance apps Lark, Resso, and Toutiao.
The moderation tool also collects data based on the “hit rate” of sensitive words, including how often American users post about them.
The Forbes report was dismissed by TikTok.
Jamie Favazza, a spokeswoman for the social media platform, told Forbes that the lists cited in the report were either incomplete or “significantly outdated.” According to Favazza, none of the lists featured in the report have ever been used by TikTok.