TikTok is failing to crack down on accounts that post misogynistic content featuring banned influencer Andrew Tate, despite a previous pledge to do so, according to new research.
Analysis by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) identified more than 100 accounts that frequently promote content featuring Tate, with a total of 250m video views and 5.7 million followers.
Videos posted by the accounts included a clip watched 2.5m times in which Tate said women should “take some degree of responsibility” to prevent rape, another where he said “virgins are the only acceptable thing to marry” and a third where he says women who do not want children are “miserable stupid bitches”.
TikTok says its platform is “inclusive and supportive” and bans content that “praises, promotes, glorifies, or supports any hateful ideology”, including misogyny. It quickly removed the videos after being alerted to them last week, permanently banned two and accounts said it was reviewing the full findings of the CCDH research.
“Our community guidelines specifically call out misogyny as a hateful ideology and we are crystal clear that this content is not allowed on our platform,” the spokeswoman said.
The findings come after an observer investigation in August exposed how followers of Tate, a British-American kickboxer and reality TV personality, were deliberately manipulating the TikTok algorithm to artificially boost his content. It revealed that members of his online academy Hustler’s University – a moneymaking scheme aimed at young men – were encouraged to post videos of him to generate referrals.
In one guide, obtained by the observer, Hust’s University members were instructed to post videos to provoke controversy, thereby giving videos the best chance of being picked up by the algorithm and going viral. “What you ideally want is a mix of 60-70% fans and 40-30% haters,” it said. “You want arguments. You want war.” The strategy led to the creation of hundreds of copycat accounts that posted videos of Tate making misogynistic or otherwise controversial comments, many of which were subsequently boosted by the TikTok algorithm to users including children. By August, videos of him on TikTok had been watched more than 11.6bn times.
In response to the Observer’s investigation, TikTok said it was removing “violative” content and accounts, including misogynistic content and ‘“copycat” accounts that broke its rules on impersonation. Two weeks later, it announced it had banned an official account belonging to Tate for breaking rules on “content that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanises an individual or a group”, following similar action by Instagram and Facebook.
While it did not impose a blanket ban, meaning videos of him are still allowed on the platform provided they comply with TikTok’s policies, the platform said it was pursuing measures to strengthen its enforcement and detection models.
The CCDH analysis, conducted in October, shows many accounts have continued posting violative content, seemingly without detection or action by TikTok. Callum Hood, its head of research, said the accounts seem to have been set up to “game the TikTok algorithm to push misogynistic content into people’s feeds, get it racking up engagement and make Andrew Tate money”.
It took the CCDH team “about two days” to assemble extensive evidence of violative content, he added. “If it took our team two days from outside TikTok, it shouldn’t be hard for TikTok to detect whats going on.”
Tate’s rise to fame and the response of social media firms attracting huge global attention this year and sparked debate about freedom from speech and harmful content – a currently in the spotlight following Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
Tate, who grew up in Luton and now lives in Romania, has claimed that he was joking when making extreme misogynistic comments, saying “internet sensationalism” had “purported the idea that im [sic] anti women when nothing could be further from the truth”.
But Ruth Davison, CEO of the domestic abuse charity Refuge, said content pushed by Tate and his followers risked normalising harmful behaviors. “It might look like harmless banter but it doesn’t stop there; it creates a culture in which violence is allowed to flourish and continue.”
She called for regulation to hold social media platforms to account for online misogyny and other harmful content. “We’d love to see platforms do more [to tackle it] themselves but they’re not going to because they will lose competitive advantage, so it needs to be the government,” she added.