New York Health & Fitness Journal —
In an interview with Health & Fitness Journal’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, a TikTok executive repeatedly refused to acknowledge China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, which the US State Department has described as genocide and, according to a United Nations report, “crimes against humanity.” “ could represent.
In response to Tapper’s question, “Do you acknowledge that the Chinese government has Uyghurs and others in concentration camps?” Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, said, “That’s not what I’m focused on.”
TikTok is a Chinese-owned platform that has come under intense scrutiny from US lawmakers and security experts as the social media app has grown in popularity exponentially in recent years. Critics argue China’s national security laws could force TikTok — or its parent company ByteDance — to release customers’ personal information in the United States.
Security experts have said the data could allow China to identify intelligence opportunities or attempt to influence Americans through disinformation campaigns.
The company has also been accused of censoring content politically sensitive to the Chinese government, including banning some accounts that have posted about China’s mass detention centers in its western Xinjiang region. The US State Department estimates that up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities were held in these camps.
In August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report that China had committed “grave human rights abuses” against Uyghurs that could amount to “crimes against humanity.”
Faced with a second opportunity to acknowledge China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Beckerman again postponed.
“I’m just not an expert on what’s happening in China,” Beckerman said. “So that’s not an area that I focus on.”
Beckerman denied censorship of posts about the Xinjiang detention camps, saying moderation decisions are made in the United States — not China — and people can search the TikTok app to find “a lot of content about it.”
“We don’t censor content on behalf of any government,” Beckerman said. “This does not violate our content guidelines.”
Tapper pressed Beckerman a third time, asking if the TikTok executive was afraid of being fired for speaking out about China’s treatment of Uyghurs. He again refused to acknowledge this, saying only that China is among the many bad actors around the world.
“Look, I think there are a lot of human rights violations in China and around the world,” Beckerman said. “I think these are very important. I’m not here to be the expert on human rights abuses around the world.”
TikTok called the suggestion that Beckerman refuses to acknowledge China’s treatment of Uyghurs “outrageous.”
“Michael has absolutely acknowledged that there are human rights abuses in China,” Brooke Oberwetter, spokeswoman for TikTok, said in a statement. “But he found that determination is outside of his area of expertise as public policy leader for TikTok. As Public Policy Director at TikTok, his job is to explain TikTok’s approach to the content that Jake has asked about, which he has done several times.”
In addition to security and privacy concerns, TikTok has also been criticized for showing potentially harmful content related to suicide and eating disorders to teenagers.
In a report published last week, the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate found that after signing up for a TikTok account, it can take less than three minutes to see suicide-related content and about five more minutes to see one Find a community that promotes eating disorder content.
Beckerman dismissed Tapper’s concerns that some American parents might see this study and believe that “the Chinese government is trying to destroy our children from the inside out.” Beckerman nodded to the app’s parental controls, but called Tapper’s argument hypocritical.
“The same people who are complaining about employees in China and actions from China and all these things … they are also suggesting that we should use Chinese-style media rules here in the US,” Beckerman said. “We have freedom of speech here in the United States, among other things.”