TikTok Takes Down Educational Hacking Content

TikTok Logo on an iPhone X that is set on a wooden surface

Multiple creators on TikTok report that the platform is taking an aggressive stance on educational videos about hacking. The social media platform has removed cybersecurity-related content and has temporarily banned creators for posting videos on the topic.

TikTok says that while it does not allow criminal activities or harassment, it makes exceptions for educational content. However, a number of creators claim that any content related to “cybersecurity” or “hacking” is removed immediately.

TikTok’s Aggressive Stance Towards “Hacking”

Vice’s Motherboard interviewed cybersecurity content creators on TikTok after the platform either removed their content or temporarily banned them.

Serena DiPenti, a creator who goes by “shenetworks” on the platform, puts out content on cybersecurity awareness. Recently, TikTok removed one of DiPenti’s educational videos under its harassment and bullying policy. DiPenti uploaded a similar second clip, adding a clear educational disclaimer. TikTok removed this clip as well, and temporarily banned DiPenti from the platform.

DiPenti’s example highlights the grey area that educational “hacking” content finds itself in on the platform. TikTok does not seem to differentiate between malicious and educational content. Furthermore, DiPenti told Motherboard that she uploaded her original clip to Instagram as a reel, where it did not face any action.

Creators like DiPenti say that removing videos and punishing creators who make them is highly discouraging. She added that creators are increasingly fed up of creating content only to have it taken down. This could lead to TikTok losing creators.

Benefits of Educational Content on Cybersecurity

Creators have questioned TikTok’s policy on removing hacking-related educational content. They say that the idea that all hacking is done by malicious actors is antiquated and that there are many benefits to learning about hacking.

DiPenti added that such content has many benefits, as it teaches viewers about vulnerabilities and how they can be fixed. She also said that people learn how hacking works so they can protect themselves from attacks.

Jonathon Boring, a creator on TikTok, said that the platform almost always removes content closely related to “cybersecurity” and “hacking.” He relies on self-censoring to avoid action from the platform, by avoiding using words like “hack” or “hacking.”

Marcus Hutchins, another creator, said that many creators had a similar experience in the early days of YouTube and other platforms.

TikTok maintained to Motherboard that, though it has a strict stance on criminal activities and harassment, it makes exceptions for educational content. It also said that DiPenti’s video was erroneously removed and has been restored. However, the video was removed again a day later, an action that DePenti told Motherboard she could not appeal.

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.