Popular social media platform TikTok has been ‘shadow banning’ a variety of LGBTQ+ hashtags according to a study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). The report defines ‘shadow banning’ as a form of censorship which suppresses content with certain hashtags attached; posts are not deleted, but they are more difficult to find.
Much of the censorship applies to specific languages including Russian, Arabic and Bosnian. The ASPI found hashtagging the word ‘gay’ in these languages was shadow banned, as well as other terms such as ‘transgender’ or ‘I am gay’. The ASPI report also found several political hashtags condemning the police were shadow banned.
In 2019, The Guardian reported TikTok had completely banned pro-LGBTQ+ content in certain countries such as Turkey – where homosexuality was not even illegal – in an effort to ‘provide locally sensitive moderation’. Although this level of censorship is ‘no longer in use’ in Turkey, the ASPI found queer voices in Russia and Eastern Europe are still subject to bans.
TikTok has responded saying the censoring was due to pornographic content but continued it ‘strongly supports LGBTQ+ content creators around the world’. However a twitter user argued TikTok is an anti-LGBTQ+ ‘propaganda tool’.