TikTok Moderators Were Trained Using ‘Graphic Images of Child Sexual Abuse’: Forbes

August 5th, 2022 1:33 PM

Former moderators for Chinese Communist Party-tied TikTok reportedly said that their training materials included a large amount of explicit child abuse videos and images.

Former third-party moderators for TikTok from the company Teleperformance said a “DRR” or Daily Required Reading document had explicit child abuse content. The document was widely accessible to employees both at TikTok and at Teleperformance as recently as this summer, Forbes reported.

Forbes reported that “hundreds” of TikTok and Teleperformance employees had “free access” to the document. The required reading, along with other content moderation training materials, were stored in the internal workplace software, Lark, developed by TikTok’s parent company, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-tied ByteDance.

Teleperformance Global President of Trust & Safety Akash Pugalia reportedly told Forbes his company does not use explicit child abuse videos during training. Forbes cited “legal and online safety experts” as saying that TikTok and its consultants’ handling of the explicit material is “ham-handed and cavalier at best, and harmful and re-traumatizing at worst.”

TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza reportedly told the outlet that the company’s “training materials have strict access controls and do not include visual examples” of child sexual abuse material, although she reportedly admitted that TikTok’s third-party partners may have separate processes.

Forbes wrote that images of child abuse and exploitation are illegal, and that, if discovered, the material in question must be removed immediately and reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), and there are strict rules for handling such images when discovered. NCMEC works to analyze the content and contact proper authorities. Companies that report such content have 90 days of legal immunity to retain the content in order to help authorities. But the law requires the deletion of such content after those 90 days. 

About 25 percent of the DRR resource spreadsheet, which former moderators reportedly said was still live in July, was composed of child sexual abuse content, Forbes added. The publication indicated that it was unclear if any content was ever deleted off the DRR. Remote work by Teleperformance employees also raised questions about how secure the content was from being shared. Recent reports revealed that Chinese ByteDance employees had direct access to TikTok U.S. user data.

“It's not hard to just come up with teaching tools that help staff delineate between what's okay and what isn't,” Forbes quoted David Vladeck, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, as having said.

Teleperformance’s TikTok moderation program had begun by the end of 2019, former moderators told Forbes, though it is unclear when the contract was signed, according to Forbes.

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