The #intersex hashtag was not working on TikTok as of last week, according to intersex activist Pigeon Pagonis. Their own tag wouldn’t work, and searching for intersex produced a “null” page when they tried to click it.
Pagonis noticed the tag disappearing for the second time, and they worried TikTok had banned it just as they were preparing to launch a series of celebratory videos called Intersex Joy.
It is generally safe for him to post about intersex topics on TikTok since the platform has generally receptive users. With a background of secrecy, lies, and shame about being intersex, Pagonis has turned to platforms like TikTok to come together and advocate for themselves and each other so other people can learn about intersex.
As an intersex person, you have historically been mistreated, and it infects the erasure of the easiest way to discover intersex content on TikTok.
Pagonis says that “my community is erased with a scalpel, and with words and linguistics, but this time they are literally erasing the word.”
It is a major frustration for TikTok users that content is removed and moderated unclearly. It’s unclear, however, how much moderation is done by actual people versus if algorithms are used to decide what words are banned and what aren’t.
TikTok has previously been accused of limiting the reach of LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and people who are deemed to be “ugly” or poor, as well as suppressing Black creators.
There are lesbians on the app who jokingly refer to themselves as “le dolla bean” TikTok’s confused moderation can be circumvented in In many ways. Some lesbians use the term “le dolla bean” to avoid having their videos removed just based on how they spell “le $ bian”.
Mar Hicks, a historian of technology, says it became a joke because things containing the word lesbian were being flagged or causing users to lose their accounts. “The rules can change at any given moment, there is no transparency,” Hicks says, explaining why TikTok creators feel overly cautious about what they share.
If tags suddenly disappear, whether intentionally or not, it has “incredibly problematic consequences and negative ramifications for communities who are already marginalized and erased.”
The guidelines, according to Hicks, are enforced “wildly differently” for queer people and people of color, which means that their content is removed or suppressed for supposed violations, but they don’t get a response when they report abuse from other users.
In addition to preventing them from speaking on the platform and being seen on it, it also allows hate speech to be hurled at them.”
On other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram there have been technical bugs, moderation errors, and algorithmic problems that have hampered the ability to access certain accounts and content.
Pagonis, who was fascinated with TikTok before the intersex tag was removed, told me the experience had shaken his love for the service.
Video sharing about intersex experiences is still on their minds. The platform doesn’t follow through on its promise to elevate marginalized voices and users become frustrated.