Does TikTok have a problem with plus-sized influencers' content?

New York, New York – When scrolling through TikTok, it's common to see both men and women scantily clad or half naked, taking on trendy dances or challenges. Ironically, it's not these users' videos being removed, but the curvy and more-clothed ones promoting body positivity.

Remi Bader showcases different pieces of clothing for her followers to promote body positivity.
Remi Bader showcases different pieces of clothing for her followers to promote body positivity.  © Screenshot / TikTok / remibader

One year ago, the singer Lizzo had TikTok videos of her rocking bikinis removed by the platform, which said they went against its policies.

Fast-forward to 2021, and the app is at it again, targeting plus-sized women and flagging content that seems far less risqué than that posted by slimmer women, toned dancers, and gym addicts.

Remi Bader, a 25-year-old plus-sized model, frequently uses her account to try on and review clothes from different brands, shining a light on the sizing inconsistencies in women's fashion for her one million followers.

But she has recently been hit with multiple TikTok takedowns. According to CNN Business, Bader uploaded a video showcasing a product that was supposed to be normal size, but ended up being very ill-fitting.

The video happened to give a glimpse at a small portion of her butt, which was mostly covered by the pants she was reviewing. That was enough to have her content removed.

Inconsistent moderation raises red flags

Maddie Touma flaunts her curves, sharing how comfortable she is in her own skin.
Maddie Touma flaunts her curves, sharing how comfortable she is in her own skin.  © Screenshot / TikTok / taddiemouma

Soon after the video uploaded, TikTok had it removed for breaking their "adult nudity" policy, even though she wasn't anywhere close to being naked

The plus-sized model told CNN Business that the video aimed at promoting body positivity and spreading the message that your size is just a number.

The main issue she had with removal is that there are many more sexually suggestive videos that remain on the app. "That to me makes no sense," she said.

TikTok influencer Maddie Touma has encountered the same experience with her videos on multiple occasions. The 23-year-old often shares styling guides for plus-sized women with her 195,000 followers. But she has also had clips of her wearing lingerie, or even being fully-clothed, removed.

Having multiple videos taken down caused the influencer to rethink the kind of content she posted. "I actually started to change my style of content, because I was scared my account was going to either be removed or just have some sort of repercussions for getting flagged so many times as against community guidelines," she told CNN.

Because the app is largely based on an algorithm with moderate human interference on the backend, the question rose as to why these women had their videos removed when they didn't even break the guidelines.

TikTok goes on the defensive

Both TikTok users have had their videos flagged and removed for nudity.
Both TikTok users have had their videos flagged and removed for nudity.  © Screenshot / TikTok / taddiemouma / remibader

TikTok denied any allegations of purposely flagging and removing the content. A spokesperson for the app told CNN Business that an algorithm automatically flags questionable videos, but a person ultimately has the final say whether the video will be deleted or not.

But the fact that there is human interference in the decision to remove a video directly contradicts TikTok's initial defense.

Still, the company insists it does not "moderate content on the basis of shape, size, or ability, and we continually take steps to strengthen our policies and promote body acceptance".

Bader, Touma, and other plus-sized influencers still have plenty of unanswered questions. In the meantime, it seems like they will have to continue being extra-careful with the content they post.

Cover photo: Screenshot / TikTok / taddiemouma / remibader

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