April 12, 2021

TikTok; Tool to Threaten, Target, and Terrorize

By Alyson Chadwick

About 800 million people around the world use TikTok, the video sharing app. If you are unfamiliar with it, think YouTube for super short video. The vast majority of the content posted there is innocuous and fun. What can be so bad about such an app? If what’s happening in Myanmar is any indication, a lot. It has become the go-to app to threaten and peaceful protesters. This is how members of the military and police are using it these days.

According to Reuters:

Andalou Agency/Getty Images

One video from late February reviewed by Reuters shows a man in army fatigues aiming an assault rifle at the camera and addressing protesters: “I will shoot in your fucking faces… and I’m using real bullets. I am going to patrol the whole city tonight and I will shoot whoever I see… If you want to become a martyr, I will fulfil your wish.”

If that was said in other countries, it may just be written off as just bravado but that assumption can’t be made here. Thirty-eight protesters were murdered by security forces. They were all unarmed. When TikTok was reached for a comment about how their service is being used to terrify and threaten people, they responded,

“The promotion of hate and violence has absolutely no place on our platform. We are aggressively removing content in Myanmar that violates our principles, and continue to monitor the situation.”

tiffany diep, Tiktok spokesperson

I sent a follow up question asking about whether they were considering doing more than remove any violent content but have not heard back. It is not enough to just take down videos that violate their policy. It has been estimated that one billion TikTok videos are watched each day. It is crazy to assume their current approach will be at all effective. The only approach that may make a difference is to ban the users who post threats.

What can you do to get TikTok to act? Let them know you want them to. Here are their social media sites as well as those of ByteDance, their parent company:

In normal situations, I do not support taking down an individual’s social media channels because I don’t like what they post but these are not normal situations. Even the Freedom of Speech has its limitations. If TikTok allows its platform to be used to terrorize people, it becomes complicit in that terror. We can make them stop. We have to make them stop.

Alyson Chadwick, Digital Campaign Strategist

For the International Campaign for the Rohingya: Simon Billenness, Debbie Stothard, Jack Rendler, J. Mark Brinkmoeller, Simran Stuelpnagel, Michael DeLong, Hannah Sussman, and Mike Haack.

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For Further Reading:

Partial ban on military Facebook pages welcomed by Burma Campaign UK,” Burma Campaign UK, 25 February 2021

Facebook has continued to fail Myanmar. Now its people have to pay the price.,” Media Matters, 25 February 2021

Sanction Myanmar Military, Not Myanmar People,” Justice For Myanmar and Burma Campaign UK, 5 February 2021

How to squeeze Myanmar’s military without hurting its people,” Southeast Asia Globe, 12 February 2021

Who Profits From a Coup? The Power and Greed of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing,” Justice For Myanmar, January 2021

“Dirty List” of companies doing business with the Myanmar military, Burma Campaign UK

Military Ltd,” Amnesty International, September 2020

Will Myanmar’s ‘Genocide Gems’ Become the New Blood Diamonds?,” BusinessWeek,  October 17, 2018

“No Genocide Gems! Burmese Military Takes a Hit From Citizens Sanctions,” International Campaign for the Rohingya blog

Cloudflare must terminate its services for the Myanmar military,” International Campaign for the Rohingya and Burma Campaign UK, 8 February 2021

Follow the up-to-the-minute news on Twitter using these hashags: #CivilDisobedienceMovement #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #JusticeForMyanmar

Subscribe to Frontier Myanmar’s excellent daily coverage from inside the country.