The Uighur issue is becoming a concern for not just China's global stature, but also for Chinese tech companies. Chinese social media site has been widely criticised for taking down a make-up tutorial in which a user, who goes by the name Feroza, describes the plight of Uighur Muslims while giving tips on curling eyelashes. The video went viral and the Chinese social network took it down, but not before it was broadcast on other networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Tiktok has been criticised for temporarily banning the account of the user. Since social media spaces are considered free spaces for voicing an opinion, the criticism took TikTok down a notch and it had to issue a public apology for the issue. It's a lopsided apology though since it blamed this issue on "human moderation error."
The incident comes to light as US regulators are investigating TikTok's parent company ByteDance for spying for the Chinese government. The company has tried to balance its image by setting up a team in Mountain View, California, and separating its Chinese operations from its global operations.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has demanded that data held by TikTok on American users be stored on US soil so that it is not compromised by Chinese authorities. CFIUS is also looking into TikTok's 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, which provided it the video-sharing platform that made it widely popular.
TikTok will serve as a test case for Chinese companies operating globally. Chinese companies and the Chinese state have repeatedly violated global norms in the way they operate, raising suspicions on their ability to handle personal data.
ByteDance has already agreed to divest the gay dating app Grindr following data security concerns. It has also hired auditors to look into data security concerns.
While it has assured the US government that the Chinese government does not have any control over TikTok, the Uighur-related video takedown shows a different story altogether.