Kiwi model and body positivity advocate Jess Quinn has taken TikTok to task after the video sharing app admitted it had restricted content from disabled users and others it deemed as "vulnerable" to bullying.
Quinn, who lost her leg to cancer at the age of nine, shared a defiant video via the app of herself pointing to her hoodie which read "All Bodies Welcome Here" before removing her prosthetic leg.
"Hey TikTok," she wrote in the caption of the video, which she also shared with her 181,000 Instagram followers.
Hey TikTok, I hear you have shadow banned videos by “disabled, fat or LGBTQ+” users because they’re “vulnerable to bullying if their videos reach a wide audience”. Well, on behalf of all of those people, the only bullying is your exclusion of people who you believe are “vulnerable”. I thought I’d add a little video to your app of my “vulnerable” self, wearing a sweatshirt that says ALL BODIES WELCOME HERE, while removing one of my body parts. I thought long and hard about this because I didn’t want to support your app by giving you another download but I put my stubbornness to the side. I’d rather show some 9 year old girl who lost her leg to Cancer that she can get involved on TikTok in the same way as everyone else. I would like to encourage the young person who identifies with the LGBTQ+ community that they too have the same opportunities and that any person that you perceive as “fat” can take up as much space as they please on your app. I thank you for your attempt at being considerate to us “vulnerable” people but quite frankly we just want to be treated like everyone else. Sincerely, A human who is only “disabled” & “vulnerable” by societies (& TikToks) definition. #allbodieswelcomehere #tiktok #thankyounext
"I hear you have shadow banned videos by 'disabled, fat or LGBTQ+' users because they're 'vulnerable to bullying if their videos reach a wide audience'.
"Well, on behalf of all of those people, the only bullying is your exclusion of people who you believe are 'vulnerable'."
Quinn said she had been reluctant to download the app to share the video, as she didn't want to be seen as supporting it.
"But I put my stubbornness to the side," she said.
"I'd rather show some nine-year-old girl who lost her leg to cancer that she can get involved on TikTok in the same way as everyone else. I would like to encourage the young person who identifies with the LGBTQ+ community that they too have the same opportunities and that any person that you perceive as 'fat' can take up as much space as they please on your app.
"I thank you for your attempt at being considerate to us 'vulnerable' people but quite frankly we just want to be treated like everyone else."
Kid, I knew you were strong but wow. I recently requested all of my medical records since 2001. You may have seen it in my stories yesterday but I finally received the MASSIVE stack of records. I spent last night going through them and was turning pages like a book I couldn't put down. I first broke my leg and it took about 4 months for us to realise that there was something serious underlying and that moment was one of the first pages I read (slide across to read).There were records of conversations in there that Dad had with Doctors when I was complaining of pain after the initial break without us knowing what was ahead of us. Then the following pages were the doctor's notes from different stages in my journey. Seeing the words "Week 9 of Chemotherapy" then "Week 15", "psychiatric input for upcoming surgery" then "Week 25" & it kept going. The mouth ulcers, the weight loss leading to a feeding tube, the full details of what took place during surgeries (I've blurred those details for you) and all the bits in between. Then to the day the decision was made to amputate my leg. Honestly it was the most mind blowing thing to read, to know that that was your body facing all of that, to know that your parents had to go through all of that. It's just a chapter in my story now but wow if that's not perspective then I dont know what is ⭐
Leaked documents showing how TikTok limited the reach of videos from certain users were first revealed by German website NetzPolitik.org.
Restrictions were applied to users who were "susceptible to bullying or harassment based on their physical or mental condition", as well as those who displayed a rainbow flag in their profiles or described themselves as lesbian, gay or non-binary.
The list also included users who were "simply fat and self-confident", according to the site.
TikTok confirmed the report, saying the approach was "never intended to be a long-term solution".
The app said in a statement: "Early on, in response to an increase in bullying on the app, we implemented a blunt and temporary policy. While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favour of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections."