Remember when we all thought we were downloading TikTok just to watch videos during quarantine? That was a different time, my friends. Almost four months after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the WHO, our souls may have withered in isolation, but TikTok—the social media app that allows users to post up to 15 second videos set to a sound—has truly thrived. TikTok has become one of the world’s most beloved apps, with 800 million active users worldwide. But, with that much engagement and popularity, there’s bound to be some (or in the case of TikTok, tons) of drama. And, as an app that features predominantly millennial and Gen Z users dancing, kissing their friends and becoming politically engaged, the Chinese-founded app has given users *a lot* of drama to salivate over (it’s pretty much the tech equivalent of the Kardashian family at this point).
From claims of censoring plus-sized bodies to in-fighting between TikTok’s biggest stars, here’s everything you need to know about all the drama going down in TikTok nation right now. Buckle up, because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Controversy #1: TikTok is accused of biased censorship
As synonymous as the famous app is with Megan Thee Stallion‘s “Savage,” it’s also slowly becoming known for its censorship of certain communities. In March, singer Lizzo called out the app (on the app, both a meta and an iconic move) after she noticed that TikTok kept removing videos of her in bathing suits.
The big issue? The fact that other TikTok users like Charlie D’Amelio (more on her later) *were* posting very similar vids (and continue to do so) that weren’t being removed. In many cases, the videos both Lizzo and other users like D’Amelio posted were über similar, featuring the women dancing along to TikTok-famous songs in their bikinis. The only big difference is the fact that Lizzo is plus-size, while D’Amelio is not. In a March article for FLARE on the topic of Lizzo’s censorship, we noted that the implication of these actions by the app were as crystal clear as a Kardashian publicity ploy: curvier bodies are offensive and need to be removed from the app—and public view. Which, is so not cool. Or at all accurate. (And unfortunately, it’s not unique—Instagram has also been called out for censoring curvier bodies on their platform).
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And TikTok isn’t just known for censoring users’ bodies, but their sexual orientations as well. A December 2019 report from the German site NetzPolitik found that leaked docs from the company revealed that TikTok had censored posts by users it identified as disabled, fat or LGBTQ+. The app did this a few different ways, from limiting viewership to the poster’s home country to not allowing videos on the popular search page. According to the report, other users were manually put on a restriction list, with a “striking number” of these “special users” reportedly “show[ing] a rainbow flag in their biographies or [describing] themselves as lesbian, gay or non-binary…The list also includes users who are simply fat and self-confident.” [In response to the publication of their guidelines, TikTok told NetzPolitik that the rules were “never intended to be a long-term solution,” and the censorship was reportedly targeted at accounts and individuals the company felt would be vulnerable to bullying].
In addition to this, in February several transgender TikTok users reported having videos either taken down or the sound removed. And before we stop at just censoring sexual orientations and bodies, the app—which has recently featured content aimed at insulting or bringing awareness to President Donal Trump’s policies—is also delving into the political sphere. Per a September 2019 article by The Guardian, leaked documents from the company reveal that the Chinese-owned company has internal guidelines that call for the censorship of any videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the religious group Falun Gong (which is banned).
Controversy #2: The never-ending drama of the Hype House
For those familiar with the world of TikTok, the Hype House is as well-known as the infamous Bachelor Mansion. ICYMI, “Hype House” refers to a collective of TikTok-famous teens and the Los Angeles home many of them live and create content in. The house was “established” (LOL) in December 2019 by 18-year-old Chase Hudson, a wildly popular TikTok star.
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In January, Hudson’s former BFF Josh Richards established the rival Sway House. According to Insider, at one point Hudson and Richards were friends, but had some then-unknown dispute and falling out (is anyone else getting serious Romeo and Juliet vibes from this?). Until recently, Hudson was dating the aforementioned 16-year-old Charlie D’Amelio—currently the most-followed person on TikTok (and the Juliet Capulet in this story).
Then it gets kind of wild. In March, Richards released a “diss track“—Drizzy he is not—that alluded to Hudson cheating on D’Amelio with Nessa Barrett (D’Amelio and Hudson announced their breakup a few weeks later). Everything was fine until those rumours surfaced again on July 6—and that’s when it all went off online. While D’Amelio had yet to comment on the alleged cheating allegations, per The Cut in the weeks leading up to July 6, she made subtle allusions to that fact, posting somewhat shade-throwing Instagram posts.
Fans then noticed that D’Amelio had unfollowed Hudson and Barrett on Instagram. From there, everyone started unfollowing everyone.
And it seems like maybe D’Amelio’s latest post (and the subsequent unfollowing) was the last straw for Hudson. On July 6, Hudson took to Twitter, tweeting (and then deleting): “All this drama going on is because I kissed Nessa when we were both single.” In response, D’Amelio tweeted at Hudson, hinting that this wasn’t the full story and writing: “Then, you shouldn’t have come to my house after without telling me.”
From there, other members of the Sway House—including Barrett’s ex—started piling on Hudson, calling him out for lying and not owning up to cheating. In another now-deleted tweet, Hudson then laid it *all* out, sharing the piping hot tea on everyone in the Sway House. “Since all my drama has to be put on the internet for the world to judge me, let’s lay out everyone else’s…I’m not going to let these hypocrites ruin my life without their lives being on the internet too,” he tweeted.
For those who didn’t see it or don’t know what she talkin bout pic.twitter.com/Olojpv0Oti
— Rony Ramirez (@ronyramirez73) July 7, 2020
While Hudson *did* apologize to D’Amelio, saying that she was “the only person who has a right to be upset with me,” D’Amelio didn’t accept his apology. It was reported that, later that day, a bunch of the Sway House members (along with the media, who they’d informed of where they were going), went to the Hype House to confront Hudson…who wouldn’t come out.
It’s a massive mess, y’all, and seriously the only person whose come out on top is Charlie.
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Controversy #3: The U.S. may ban TikTok
As if the whole Hype House drams wasn’t enough TikTok mess for one day, in a July 7 interview with Fox News Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that the United States may ban use of the app. When asked if the government would ban the use of Chinese apps—of which TikTok is one—Pompeo said: “I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at.” The announcement comes on the heels of India officially banning the app in late June, citing security concerns, specifically Chinese surveillance, as the reason.
This isn’t anything new. The United States has long been worried that the Chinese government is using the app to track data on U.S. residents. In December 2019, the U.S. Navy urged military personnel and staff to delete the app if they had it downloaded on government-issued smartphones and tablets. At the time Dave Benham, director of public affairs for U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, told USA Today in a statement: “This decision was made based on cybersecurity threat assessments, and is consistent with 10th Fleet efforts to proactively address existing and emerging threats in defense of our networks.” Which is ominous AF.
And we thought Claudia Conway’s anti-Trump videos were the most bonkers thing to come from TikTok.