One of the most raunchy and relatable famous people, Julia Fox, has apologised for making an inappropriate statement on a video that made use of coded language in order to talk about sexual assault.
TikTok is well-known because of its scattershot moderation, which employs algorithms to block content that contains certain words or phrases. This means that users are just one step ahead of algorithms by using codes like “seggs” to replace sexual activity or “unalive” instead of suicide.
The algorithm will eventually catch the word “coded.” Creators can reorient the algorithm and substitute a different word to replace it. This tactic, which is called “algospeak,” is altering the method by which we communicate on the internet, and occasionally, it can cause conflicting opinions.
The continuous tinkering with algorithms leads to more abstract phrases being used as code words. Some creators have used “mascara” as an euphemism for sex or penis, presumably because of the act of using a mascara wand to get in and out of the container.
TikTok creator Big Whip13 posted a video in which he discussed the time he “gave an individual girl mascara, and it must have tasted so amazing that she decided she as well as her friend should experiment without my consent.” He has also tagged the video with #saawareness, which means that it’s sexual assault awareness material.
Fox, believed to be assuming the person was actually taking the term “mascara” literally, said: “I don’t know why, but I don’t feel guilty for you.” The video has since been watched over 8 million times, with Fox’s reaction sparking an outrage in which people who know the codewords complained that she was reducing sexual assault.
Although some users were claiming to Fox that they were not online enough to have a grasp of the word “algospeak,” others have pointed out that “algospeak” can be obscure and critical for public who are not experts.
Most often, code words are used to discuss sensitive topics that are blocked by the algorithm, and it’s untrue to assume that all users are aware of the meaning.
TikTok is also known for slowly separating users into a walled garden of content specifically tailored to their tastes, leading to the concept of niche trends being interpreted as popular; what one user is seeing on their timeline may have nothing in common with the timeline of a different user.
@big_whip13 shared a video in response to Fox’s remarks, which was viewed over 1.3 million times. It also made use of the term “segual assault” instead of “sexual assault.” It’s a more explicit variant of algospeak.
Then, Fox was alerted to the controversy following the backlash, and an apology was made in writing to an offended user by writing: “Hey babe, I’m so sorry for what I thought you had been talking about mascara makeup.” Then, she posted an Instagram video to explain the situation.
TikTok is changing the way its users interact with one another while also inadvertently creating new opportunities for controversy. Now it’s only a matter of time until the algorithm understands the meaning behind “mascara.”