Update: After this story ran, TikTok reinstated the videos following a review that determined no violation of community guidelines.
Malaysian drag queen Carmen Rose wants to know if the country’s local TikTok moderators are anti-queer when two of her videos were taken down minutes after they were viewed by thousands.
Carmen, the persona of a performer whose first name is Sam, took to Instagram yesterday to detail her beef with the video-sharing app, claiming she’s been the victim of mass false reports.
“TikTok Malaysia has decided to remove my latest content based on false reports,” she wrote online, adding: “This isn’t the first time it’s happening.”
The video featured Carmen and fellow drag artist Just Acne Scar lip-syncing to a popular soundbite by Alyssa McKay, which has been at least 150,000 other times by various TikTok creators.
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Carmen said she suspected the companies local operation of censorship.
“I believe [TikTok Malaysia] are trying to deny access to a platform that’s supposed to be LGBTQ+ friendly,” she added in the caption.
Another of Carmen’s videos removed from the platform featured the drag queen telling people the subtle ways she was Malaysian. Wearing a fluffy white dress, she pranced around while reciting the phrase “Old newspaper” in Cantonese, Malay, and English, reminiscent of the newspaper-recycling trucks that pass through Malaysian neighborhoods.
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“I thought TikTok was supposed to be a fun place for me to showcase my drag but the market here favors more towards the regulars (non-members of the LGBTQ+ community) and try their hardest to reduce/silent anyone from the rainbow community,” Carmen wrote online last week.
“I believe it got close to 1,500 views before it was taken down,” Carmen told Coconuts today, referring to the “old newspaper” video. “I tried appealing but the moderators still thought I violated their guidelines.”
Carmen said she was informed that both her videos were taken down for harassment and bullying. “If mine violated the guidelines, then why is the original creator’s video still up?” she asked.
“If anything, I feel like I’m the one being bullied into silence,” she wrote in a separate Instagram story.
Carmen has more than 2,300 followers on her TikTok channel, where she regularly posts videos of herself lip-syncing. Though one of her most-watched videos has a few comments with angry emojis, most of the response appears positive.
“I got threats and arguments about my gender pronouns,” Carmen said when asked to elaborate about harassment by other TikTok users.
Neither TikTok Malaysia nor its parent company Bytedance had responded to emails and online messages seeking comment by the time of publication.
People from nations including Turkey, Russia, and China have complained about local TikTok moderators restricting or banning content based on what was viewed as “sensitive” in their respective countries.
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