Remix News confronts Big Tech censorship once again, this time on TikTok

On top of the Twitter ban last year, Remix News is now threatened with “restrictions” on TikTok

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody

News outlets that venture out of the bounds of what is considered appropriate by the establishment have long faced the wrath of Big Tech. Remix News is no exception. Our publication’s Twitter account was suspended over a year ago, without warning and apparently indefinitely, which was a severe blow given Twitter’s role as the de facto town square — a place where journalists, policymakers, business leaders, and politicians exchange information, debate, and arguably shape the modern world. Now, just three weeks after Remix began posting on TikTok, we are confronting a possible ban on the popular video platform as well.

Remix News did not face any issues on the platform until our coverage of the Dutch farmers’ protest. The video has generated over 530,000 views and was arguably the most popular video on the platform on this particular topic, at least based on keyword searches such as “Dutch protests.”

The farmer protests, however, have been a black eye for left-liberal darling, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The protesters have raised valid concerns about overbearing emissions regulations that will undoubtedly lead many of them into bankruptcy. In other words, it is a newsworthy event.

Although the protest video itself was not hit with any sort of penalty, it appears that once the Dutch protest video became popular on the platform, TIkTok quickly took notice of Remix News. The platform has since targeted a number of other videos, primarily in regard to the conflict in Ukraine. One video, “Could this battle decide the fate of Ukraine?” was removed for “illegal activities and regulated goods.” TikTok essentially accused the video of being involved in some sort of illegal activity. It is unclear how they came to such a finding, but the video has since been reinstated after an appeal.

“Ukrainian forces take out two Russian tanks” was also flagged and removed from the platform for “violent content.” An appeal to reinstate the video was also rejected. The video is here, and as can be seen, it features the type of drone footage routinely published on many other news networks.

In fact, aside from Remix News not being alone in featuring such footage, ABC, for example, has displayed arguably more disturbing footage on its TikTok page. And The Sun, which also has a large TikTok following, has shown such footage on a regular basis, including here, here and here.

TikTok additionally decided to flag a Remix video of migrant youths “abusing” a fish. The video, which can be seen here, shows them grabbing a fish out of a river outside of Ghent, Belgium, and then throwing it down a slide. Police are still looking for the suspects, and as Remix News wrote in its appeal to TikTok, more exposure will better help the police identify those responsible. Although footage of animal abuse is difficult for many viewers, that has not stopped TikTok from allowing such videos to run on its platform. In one video, for instance, it shows the bloody aftermath of a case where a woman claimed the police shot her dog in the head.

With the slew of “violations,” TikTok is now warning Remix News that its account is at “high risk of being restricted.”

The influence of TikTok is undeniable. In the United States, 63 percent of those between 12 and 17 are using the platform on a weekly basis, while only 57 percent use Instagram, which was previously the most popular platform in that age bracket. The Reuters Digital News Report shows that young people are increasingly turning to TikTok for their news, and it is now the most popular app for young people on a global scale. In fact, in the 18-24 age group, 38 percent of them primarily get their news from social media, and many of them are choosing TikTok as their main gateway for that news.

TikTok does appear to be following a model in which “serious news,” such as international and economic crises should take a backseat to more “uplifting” stories and pure entertainment. Nevertheless, as our Dutch protest video shows, content about social and political movements still resonate with a broad audience. However, TikTok has long been accused of not applying its guidelines in a consistent manner, and just as with Google, Facebook and Twitter, certain voices are amplified while others are silenced. TikTok has already banned PragerU, and conservative influencers have long complained of being targeted on the platform and outright banned from it after becoming wildly popular. Just days ago, the popular satirical news site Babylon Bee was also banned from TikTok.

TikTok will play an increasingly important role in how the youngest generations vote, in what news they consume, and in how they see the world. Remix News’ Twitter ban already represented a level of censorship few organizations ever have to confront, and a ban from TikTok would only further alienate us from the marketplace of ideas and the free flow of information.

Much has been made of the fact that TikTok is owned by the Chinese government, which is well known for its radical suppression of dissenting voices. However, much of the censorship seen over the last years in the West has come directly from homegrown tech companies, which have censored and throttled opposing viewpoints and even banned a sitting president of the United States. If anything, TikTok is only following in their footsteps. Regardless of the reasons behind the censorship, outlets like Remix News are unable to share content and build up a network on some of the major social media platforms. In turn, the present situation makes it even easier for other platforms to ban us in the future, as our ability to garner opposition to this type of censorship is diminished by our inabiltiy to reach a wider audience through social media.

In the case of TikTok, the staff has had the courtesy, up until now, to send us warnings and respond to our appeals, with Twitter instead just suspending us out of the blue without a single word of warning. Given the circumstances, Remix News will do its best to play by TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary rules, but these recent incidents raise concerns that our page may end up like that of PragerU and Babylon Bee.

Unforunately, there appears to be little headway on the censorship issue. Countries like Poland and Hungary have floated plans to create legislation that could protect freedom of expression under threat of severe fines. Yet, neither government has made any progress, instead only promising legislation that appears to have little chance of ever coming to fruition.

Despite these challenges, Remix News remains committed to reporting on the news that is often overlooked or belittled by the mainstream media, such as the farmers’ protests in the Netherlands, the ongoing migrant crisis, or the double standards seen within the EU when it comes to persecuting conservative governments. Nevertheless, the reality is that social media dominates as a source of referral traffic in the news industry, and even small tweaks in the algorithms that guide the feeds of the different social media giants can make or break a publisher. Most publishers complain about these tweaks, which can lead to substantial drops in traffic, yet few publications would be able to withstand the level of censorship Remix News has faced. Many extremely controversial news outlets still have accounts on platforms like Twitter or have been able to publish questionable videos on TikTok, a testament to the egregious level of censorship this publication is facing.

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