TikTok just banned me for telling the truth about Ukraine
Russian trolls reported my news updates en masse, and Tiktok banned me from future LIVE broadcasts as a result.
TikTok just banned me from ever going LIVE on their platform again because a group of Russian trolls complained that my news updates, in which I basically summarize CNN and New York Times stories on Ukraine, and then explain why they matter, constitute “hate speech” against Russians.
TikTok’s "LIVE” feature is similar to going live on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any other social media platform. People can watch you live, and pose questions. I’ve been updating folks on TikTok non-stop on the Russian invasion of Ukraine since the war started, and, by popular request, have been doing a LIVE update on the news of the day every night at 7PM ET. I quite literally summarize the news of the day and answer questions about the war. They’ve been remarkably popular, and I’ve had a worldwide audience.
My background was originally in foreign policy. I speak five languages, have a joint Masters in Foreign Service and Juris Doctor from Georgetown, then went on to be a foreign policy and arms control adviser to a US Senator. Since then, I worked at the World Bank, the United Nations, did contract work around the world for the State Department, provided election help to the Swedes, advised the Socialist party in Greece, gave Internet trainings in Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, and Sicily, and more. I even was a stringer for the Economist. With all that, I wanted to use my foreign policy experience to help people understand what was going on in Ukraine, and ultimately, help the Ukrainians themselves. (And I even got into the US Foreign Service, but turned it down because I’m gay, and at the time was afraid they’d boot me — it was frowned upon back then.)
That’s a long way of saying I’ve always known a good deal about foreign affairs, and saw an opportunity to use my media and Internet marketing chops to help educate people around the world about what was happening, and thereby help Ukraine itself. I even posted a fundraising video for Ukraine today.
Clearly, the Russian trolls have not been happy with me. I have 360,000 followers — 100,000 of those in just the past week, due to my Ukraine updates — and my LIVE events routinely get over 5,000 people watching simultaneously. The Russian trolls got particularly vocal in the last few days. Tonight, they apparently swarmed TikTok with complaints, and TikTok responded by shutting down my LIVE, midstream, claiming I had committed “hate speech” against the Russians, and notified me that I was banned from doing another LIVE update for life. (The “hate speech” charge is particularly choice as I’ve been a nationally-known civil rights advocate for the past 30 years or so.)
Note the multiple messages from TikTok after they censored me, which likely means multiple complaints about “hate speech” were registered”:
And here is the official notice from TikTok, telling me the specific “hateful behavior” rule that I allegedly broke. There is nothing in TikTok’s rules that even applies to my case:
I did not threaten anyone with violence. Is TikTok actually claiming that supporting Ukraine’s effort to stop the genocide constitutes “inciting violence” against Russian troops?
The Russian military is not a “protected class.”
I don’t even know a slur for the Russians, and certainly never have used slurs against anyone in my broadcasts.
UPDATE: TikTok just informed me that they denied my appeal, so the lifetime ban on doing live broadcasts stands.
This isn’t the first time that TikTok has censored my Ukraine content. They muted a video explainer I did about a recent speech by the Ukrainian ambassador before the United Nation’s General Assembly. My video introduced the speech, then played it. TikTok alleges I included copyrighted music in my video, and thus they muted the Ukrainian ambassador. There was no music. Why would anyone include music over the voice of the Ukrainian UN ambassador reading text messages between a Russian soldier and his mother moments before his death. (And there was no way to appeal the decision.)
Also, a previous LIVE event I held, maybe a week ago, was also cut short, twice. At the time, I thought it was a bad Internet connection, but my listeners, who had more experience with such things, said it had to be TikTok censoring me after “someone” (guess who) explained.
Finally, my followers commented a few days ago that they were no longer seeing my Ukraine content, or Ukraine news from other TikTokers, on TikTok’s For Your Page (FYP), a page on which TikTok provides you suggested content based on who you follow.
And now this.
As background, tonight’s LIVE agenda was, per my outline:
The Russians are still advancing towards Kyiv.
The bombing of Odessa has begun.
The 40-mile convoy has moved 3 miles.
Reports of cyberattacks in Ukraine, and what that means.
The Polish fighter deal is still dead.
Pentagon says 6,000 Russian troops have died to date, and how that’s such a huge number compared to Afghanistan.
Ukrainians release video of Russian troops looting, bragging about killing civilians.
Facebook deletes a post by the Russian embassy.
Twitter suspends a huge Russian propaganda account.
Adam Kinzinger posts a funny troll at the Russian embassy.
That’s it. That’s the hate speech that TikToks says I directed at a protected class.
Look, I know TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, but I suppose I was naive to think that they wouldn’t run a social media platform that censored genocide because it might upset the Russians. But here we are.
Please share this story widely. If you know someone in the media, or any politicians, please share it with them too. This is really unacceptable. And the people most hurt by this, are the Ukrainian people simply trying to get their story out there.
PS Update: For good measure, TikTok is now going after my other Ukraine videos. It’s always the “Ukraine” ones they take down.