The Brief: TikTok banned the account of an American teenager who posted a makeup tutorial style video about the Uighur crisis in China before they later reinstated the account and issued an apology.
A seventeen-year-old girl from New Jersey named Feroza Aziz posted a video to TikTok that starts out like an innocuous makeup tutorial before switching to a passionate speech about the Chinese government’s detention and mistreatment of Muslims. After she posted several similar videos, TikTok suspended her account.
The video received over one million views on TikTok and tens of thousands more via reposts on Twitter and Instagram.
The video starts out with a bubbly greeting before Aziz launches into a fast-paced information session about the atrocities the Chinese government is allegedly committing against its Muslim minority.
“Hey guys I’m gonna teach you guys how to get long lashes so the first thing you need to is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes obviously then you’re gonna put them down and use your phone 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 other religions, if they’re not they’re gonna get murdered, people that go into these concentration camps don’t come back alive this is another Holocaust no one is talking about it, please be aware, please spread awareness and yeah. So you grab your lash curler again…”
In the video, Aziz spreads awareness about a pressing issue to the young audience of TikTok, cleverly using the eyelash curler bait-and-switch to draw viewers in while potentially circumventing TikTok’s content moderation policies. The video refers to the mass-detention, mass-surveillance, and forced assimilation of Muslims, especially Uighurs, a Turkic minority with their own language and culture.
Earlier this week, leaked documents revealed some of the extents to which the Chinese government is violating the human rights of its Muslim residents. Evidence has surfaced that in Chinese detention centers or “reeducation camps,” which have been called concentration camps, there have been reports of rape, torture, beatings and other abuses. The conditions of these camps and actions by the Chinese government have been called a form of “cultural genocide.”
TikTok Reinstates Aziz’s Account
According to tweets made by Aziz, TikTok took down her videos and deleted her account. They cited a violation of rules in an earlier video she’d made which used a photo of Osama Bin Laden in the context of addressing negative stereotypes about Muslims. On Wednesday, she announced that her account had been re-instated, including the eyelash curler video.
After TikTok relinquished the ban and issued an apology to Aziz who told The Washington Post: “TikTok is trying to cover up this whole mess…I won’t let them get away with this.”
In TikTok’s apology, Eric Han, the head of safety at TikTok in the United States said “We acknowledge that at times, this process will not be perfect. Humans will sometimes make mistakes, such as the one made today in the case of @getmefamouspartthree’s video” adding that they are committed to quickly and effectively addressing those mistakes.
The company said that Aziz’s account was banned in a sweep that banned 2,406 devices for accounts that violated rules related to terrorism, child exploitation, or spam. TikTok has previously come under fire in the U.S. by officials who have questioned its data collection and censorship practices.
In a tweet about TikTok’s apology and reinstatement of her account, Aziz wrote “Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No.”