TikTok: Beauty filters change faces without being asked

TikTok: Beauty filters change faces without being asked


TikTok, which was marketed under the name musical.ly before it was renamed since its publication in 2016, is now one of the leading social media platforms with well over 600 million active users worldwide. This means that the platform, which is particularly popular among young users, has an influence that should not be underestimated. As it now turned out, TikTok uses its powerful position (again) for - at least - questionable purposes: The app "beautifies" the faces of the users. And that automatically, without asking and without the possibility to switch off the function.

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Unsolicited "embellishment"

That is especially problematic because the platform solidifies and pushes ideals of beauty, sometimes even kicking off, which are unattainable in real life. The use of so-called beauty filters is not new or special, countless apps offer corresponding functions. Some smartphone manufacturers even have such filters integrated into the system camera app. What is new, and therefore problematic, is the automated use, which cannot be deactivated and which is not only passed on to users without being asked. The users are not even informed about it and can only determine the changes in their own appearance by chance.

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Automatic filters active

Mind you, this form of beauty filter is only used at TikTok when videos are shot and published directly in the platform's app. Videos created in other external programs are not subject to automatic filters. Nevertheless: Many, especially younger users, shoot the clips they have published directly in the app. Here, depending on the region or country, the automatically correcting filter is used.

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TikTok has reacted

After the procedure became known and TikToker (some of which had a wide reach) made it aware, the platform operator fixed the problem. Why the beauty filters were used automatically and unnoticed at all remains unclear, because the Chinese operator ByteDance has not (yet) commented on this.

Source: wccftech.com

TikTok says it has stopped post moderation from China after controversies around censorship and privacy

  • TikTok's head of trust and safety in Europe told Insider no content is moderated in China.
  • It follows a company pledge after reports that China-based moderators were suppressing videos.
  • TikTok's Chinese roots have been a political headache for the company.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
  • TikTok has told Insider that it no longer relies on moderators in China to review users' videos, as it tries to demonstrate the app is free of Chinese political interference.

    The company pledged in March 2020 to move away from relying on staff in China — where its parent company ByteDance is based — to alleviate concerns it might give users' data to the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok has always denied handing users' data to China's authorities.

    TikTok's commitment to end moderation from China after The Intercept obtained Chinese policy documents instructing moderators to suppress posts by people deemed old, ugly, or disabled, as well as to censor political speech.

    Insider has reported how TikTok continued to rely on staff in China as it gradually built out its global workforce.

    We revealed in December the company had been sending Western job applicants' data to China and analyzed in March how and why the company had to send Western users' data to the country. 

    But at an event last week about how the company moderates content, Cormac Keenan, TikTok's head of trust and safety in Europe, said that TikTok no longer has any content moderators working on the app in China.

    He told Insider that TikTok now has more than 10,000 people moderating content — out of a global workforce of 100,000.

    'We have nobody — and it's important that we reflect on this — there's no one working on content moderation in China,' he said.

    'We've got a global strategy now where we're building locations for our moderation efforts around the world.'

    His comments confirm the completion of a process the company began in March 2020, when The Wall Street Journal reported TikTok planned to move more than 100 moderators in China, who were checking content posted by Westerners, to other roles.

    These moderators included native speakers of Western languages, living in China, who would check content posted in those languages.

    TikTok is not available in China, but its identical sister app, Douyin, is. 

    In an interview with Insider, Keenan could not give a precise date when content moderation for TikTok moved out of China entirely, but he said it was part of a broader shift by the company to ensure locally relevant insights into moderation.

    TikTok later told Insider the switch to content moderation outside China was completed in 'summer 2020.'

    The company provides 24-hour moderation coverage of content posted across more than 60 languages and dialects.

    'We are trying to make sure we're able to hire people with that cultural understanding and that language nuance to be really able to make those culturally contextual decisions,' Keenan said.

    He added that the drive to localize moderation guidelines was 'a constantly evolving process.'

    He said TikTok will 'evolve as we see opportunities and different needs across the different regions we support.'

    TikTok moderators are reportedly asked to moderate 1,000 videos a day, supported by an artificial-intelligence system that pulls out key frames of the most problematic videos and flags questionable ones it cross-checks against TikTok's community guidelines.

    The AI also uses computer vision to identify objects, such as guns, that violate TikTok's rules.

    Liam McLoughlin, a postdoctoral research fellow studying localized content moderation at Birkbeck, University of London, said having a new team of moderators outside China was 'a good step to see.'

    He called TikTok 'another case study of a platform which grew big too quick and ever since their moderation infrastructure has been playing catchup.'

    'AI is good for highlighting issues such as nudity but less so for nuanced topics, and humans need a contextual understanding when making decisions on how to apply hate-speech or abuse rules.'