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‘PizzaGate’ Conspiracy Theory Thrives Anew in the TikTok Era


But starting in April, a confluence of factors renewed interest.

A documentary promoting PizzaGate, “Out of Shadows,” made by a former Hollywood stuntman, was released on YouTube that month and passed around the QAnon community. In May, the idea that Mr. Bieber was connected to the conspiracy surfaced. Teenagers on TikTok began promoting both, as reported earlier by The Daily Beast.

A week ago, Rachel McNear, 20, watched “Out of Shadows,” which has garnered 15 million views on YouTube. She then turned to Twitter, where she came across Mr. Bieber’s supposed association with PizzaGate. After reading more on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, she created a one-minute description of her research on the topic and posted it to TikTok on Monday.

“The mainstream media uses words like conspiracy theory and how it is debunked but I’m seeing the research,” Ms. McNear, of Timonium, Md., said in an interview.

Her video was taken down on Wednesday when TikTok removed the #PizzaGate hashtag and all content searchable with the term. A TikTok spokeswoman said such content violated its guidelines.

That same day, Facebook also expunged PizzaGate-related comments under Comet Ping Pong’s page after a call from The Times.

YouTube said it had long demoted PizzaGate-related videos and removes them from its recommendation engine, including “Out of Shadows.” Twitter said it constantly eliminates PizzaGate posts and had updated its child sexual-exploitation policy to prevent harm from the conspiracy. Facebook said it had created new policies, teams and tools to prevent falsehoods like PizzaGate from spreading.

Teenagers and young adults, many of whom are just forming political beliefs, are particularly susceptible to PizzaGate, said Travis View, a researcher and host of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast, which examines conspiracy theories. They are drawn to celebrity photos on tabloid sites and Hollywood blogs to uncover PizzaGate’s supposed secret symbols and clues, he said. Even a triangle — which can signify a slice of pizza — can be taken as proof that a celebrity is part of a secret elite cabal.



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Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton joins TikTok social media video app – Edmonton


One of the oldest institutions has turned to one of the newest social media sites to help spread the Good Word.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton decided to join TikTok after noticing a drop in engagement on other social media sites like Instagram.

It is one of the first religious organizations to use the platform in Canada. Officials told Global News the decision was not an easy one, but that it is a natural step.

“Evangelization, you know, in different mediums is not a new thing,” social media strategist Lincoln Ho explained of the decision.

The app is one of the fastest-growing social networking sites in the world, accumulating 500 million active users worldwide since launching in 2016.


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In fact, it beat out a few of its more seasoned competitors, like Twitter and Snapchat, which boast about 330 million and 203 million active users, respectively.

The mobile TikTok app allows users to shoot and edit short videos set to music and has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times.

The videos range in length from 15 to 60 seconds, and feature an array of content from comedy sketches and dance challenges to lip-syncing celebrities and pranks.

Many of the videos are adaptations of other trends on the platform. For the Archdiocese, the first video posted was meant to promote their Day of Confessions.

It showed St. Joseph’s Basilica pastoral counsel Scott Jenken walk into a confessional wearing jeans before coming out in robes.

Pastoral Counsel Scott Jenken can be seen in a TIk Tok video posted by The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.

Pastoral Counsel Scott Jenken can be seen in a TIk Tok video posted by The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.


Tik Tok

“I was serving for the Archbishop Sunday and my good friend Lincoln had approached me and said, ‘Scott, you’re going to do this.’ And I said, ‘Oh. Okay,’” Jenken explained.

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The video has only been viewed a modest 300 times (as of Monday morning) but Jenken said it’s made its way to parishioners.

“I have heard a few people come and say, ‘I saw you on that TikTok’ and I thought, ‘Oh! Goodness!’”


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While they’re happy to share the message with Catholics, the idea is to also break through to those who aren’t frequent attendees.

“You never really know who you’re going to reach with this and so you might capture someone’s attention who says, ‘Hey, I should go and maybe do confession,’” Jenken said.


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Ho plans to use the videos to do just that. He has already created others including a video based on a so-called Paper Towel Challenge spreading on the app.

It sees users write on two sides of a paper towel then put it on water, revealing two messages.

@archedmonton

Spring be late… typical #Edmonton weather right?#papertowelchallenge #timechange #yeg #pourtoi #archedmonton #catholic #alberta #tiktokcanada

♬ Originalton – qwestar


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That kind of creativity doesn’t come easily.

“A TikTok actually takes way more planning than other ones that I’ve done.”


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But Ho believes it is worth the effort.


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Using social media to evangelize is not unprecedented — Pope Francis joined Twitter in 2012. In that time, he has amassed more than 18 million followers.

It’s why the Archdiocese of Edmonton believes he would be on board with their latest venture.

“I think he’d approve, certainly,” Jenken said.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton can be found on TikTok as @ArchEdmonton. You can also follow Global News @globalnews.ca.

TikTok and its parent company, Chinese technology company Bytedance, are not without controversy.

In early December 2019, TikTok admitted to suppressing the content of users it deemed ‘susceptible to bullying’, namely people with disabilities or those in the LGBTQ2+ community.

It also faced public scrutiny over allegations that the platform removed politically-sensitive content for users in China.


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WATCH BELOW: Marc Saltzman explains the TikTok craze and shares this month’s tAPPworthy apps






What is TikTok?


What is TikTok?

— With files from Sara Hussein, Global News




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.







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TikTok Reverses Ban on Teen Who Slammed China’s Muslim Crackdown


SHANGHAI — The video app TikTok on Wednesday reversed its decision to block an American teenager who posted a clip in which she discussed the mass internment of minority Muslims in China, and acknowledged that its moderation system had overreached in shutting her out of her account.

The incident raised fresh concerns about whether TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance, muzzles its users in line with censorship directives from Beijing — an accusation the company has denied.

TikTok said the teenager, Feroza Aziz, 17, had been barred from using her personal device to access the app, but not because of her video this past week about China’s detention camps. Rather, the company said, it was because she had used a previous account earlier this month to post a clip that included a photo of Osama bin Laden.

After TikTok banned that account for terrorist imagery, Ms. Aziz used a different one to post her video about the plight of Muslims in China. As the second video began to go viral, TikTok on Monday blocked more than 2,400 devices associated with accounts that had been banned for terrorist content and other malicious material, in what it called a scheduled enforcement action.

This, TikTok said, resulted in Ms. Aziz being locked out from her new account, even though her videos on that account, including the one on China, were still visible to others.

On Wednesday, Ms. Aziz expressed skepticism about TikTok’s explanation. She was blocked only after she had posted about Muslims in internment camps in China. Did she believe that TikTok had actually shut her out for her earlier video? “No,” she wrote on Twitter.

Earlier in the day, the episode had taken another turn when TikTok took down Ms. Aziz’s video about China for 50 minutes. The company said that this was the result of a human moderation error, and that the video should not have been removed.

In a statement, Eric Han, the head of safety for TikTok in the United States, apologized for the mistake. He also said the platform banned devices associated with a blocked account to prevent the spread of “coordinated malicious behavior.”

“It’s clear that this was not the intent here,” Mr. Han wrote.

Earlier this week, Ms. Aziz had told The Times that her video containing an image of Bin Laden was satirical in nature, an attempt to use humor to defuse the discrimination that she felt as a young Muslim in the United States.

“While we recognize that this video may have been intended as satire, our policies on this front are currently strict,” Mr. Han wrote. But he added that TikTok would consider exempting satirical and educational videos in the future.

Mr. Han also said TikTok would conduct a broader review of its moderation process and publish a “much fuller” version of its guidelines on acceptable content within the next two months.

TikTok has risen quickly over the past year to become a veritable cultural phenomenon. But its Chinese ownership has also aroused the concerns of United States lawmakers, who have voiced worries both about potential censorship on the platform and about how user data is stored and secured.





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