TikTok is being called out for allegedly removing posts featuring women deemed outside cultural norms of attractiveness.
Adore Me, a U.S. lingerie brand founded a decade ago, said Thursday the increasingly popular social video platform frequently removes brand posts that feature women of color and women considered to be plus-size. While the brand admitted that dealing in lingerie means it can often “push the boundaries of what’s allowed on social media platforms,” it said on Twitter that boundary-pushing content is not the source of TikTok’s deletion of posts.
“The app’s seeming randomness for continent removal is well known within the industry,” Adore Me wrote. “However, it’s been a very open secret that the algorithm itself was built with very explicit discrimination against the overweight, the ‘ugly,’ the differently abled and even the poor.”
A spokesperson for TikTok denied that the company moderates based on discriminatory metrics.
“TikTok strives to foster a community where everyone feels welcome and comfortable expressing themselves exactly as they are,” the spokesperson said. “Let us be clear: TikTok does not moderate content on the basis of shape, size, or ability, and we continually take steps to strengthen our policies and promote body acceptance.”
But Adore Me cited a leaked TikTok document, part of a story last year by The Intercept, detailing rules at the time for post removal, like being “obese” and “ugly facial looks,” among other explicitly discriminatory notions. TikTok reacted last year to the negative press associated with the story, saying “racism and discrimination have no place on TikTok,” while making certain charitable donations and forming a “creator diversity collective.” But Adore Me said these actions were merely “superficial.”
There have been several Adore Me brand posts to have been recently taken down by TikTok featuring women of color or plus-size women, the company said, showing the women either posing in or merely talking about the brand’s lingerie. The videos are not explicitly suggestive and feature no nudity. Meanwhile, nearly identical brand videos, in terms of content, posted by white women or thinner women, were not removed.
“The core algorithmic problem at the very root of the platform remains problematic and opaque,” Adore Me said. “…We refuse to change the models we work with to satisfy the hidden demands of the TikTok algorithm.”
An Adore Me representative could not be reached for further comment.
While Adore Me did not say it would be leaving the platform, it did allude in another post to such alleged actions by TikTok making the platform less relevant, even with roughly 80 million users, mainly marketing targets of young Millennials and Gen Z.
“The more these removals occur, the more we wonder if we’ll ever be able to grow on the platform,” Adore me said, “or if it will even matter, if TikTok continues to drive fat, Black and/or differently abled creators off the platform.”