TikTok’s director of creator community brushed aside allegations of Chinese influence on the social media app Tuesday, as the app faces a U.S. national security investigation.
The U.S. government announced earlier this month that it was opening a national security investigation into TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, after U.S. lawmakers expressed concern that the Chinese company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data.
Since then, TikTok executives have embarked on a campaign to refute the allegations. In an extensive profile published earlier this month, TikTok’s chief executive Alex Zhu emphasized the autonomy of TikTok’s U.S. operation from the headquarters in Beijing.
TikTok’s director of creator community Kudzi Chikumbu on Tuesday echoed the words of his chief in an interview with Wilfred Frost and Courtney Reagan on CNBC’s Closing Bell.
“We don’t remove content based on sensitivities around China or other governments,” he said. “What we’re focused on is building a platform where people can express themselves freely, be creative, be joyful and that’s kind of the main direction that’s led to the growth of TikTok.”
As he appeared on the show, the Washington Post reported that a 17-year-old user in New Jersey, Feroza Aziz, was locked out of her account after she posted a viral video criticizing the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority. The Chinese government’s discriminatory treatment of the country’s Muslim Uighur population is well documented.
Representatives from TikTok confirmed to CNBC that the user has been locked out of her account, but said it is not a matter of censorship as the video in question is still on the platform.
“TikTok does not moderate content due to political sensitivities,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. “A previous account belonging to this user had been banned after she posted a video of Osama Bin Laden, which is a violation of TikTok’s ban on content that includes imagery related to terrorist organizations. Another account of hers, @getmefamouspartthree, and its videos – including the eyelash video in question – were not affected and the video continues to receive views.”
But, in an interview with the Post, Aziz said the reference to bin Laden was a “joke.” And it clearly was.