Last week, K-Pop fans in China were shocked to find that the accounts of some of their favorite idols had been blocked on the Chinese version of TikTok, known as Douyin. While the company has yet to explain why the accounts have been erased, theories have arisen.
Tech company ByteDance originally released TikTok under the name Douyin in 2016. The international version of TikTok was released in September 2017, and the apps remain separate. Just like on the international version of TikTok, K-Pop stars have been using Douyin to share cute, funny, and otherwise engaging content with their fans.
But on July 17, many of those idols found their accounts unexpectedly deleted from public view—including the accounts of TWICE, MAMAMOO, IZ*ONE, HyunA, Zico, and members of Girls’ Generation and Super Junior.
When asked to comment, ByteDance responded that they “cannot explain why the accounts were deleted”. The company went on to allege that the artists’ agencies may be responsible. However, given that artists from multiple agencies had their accounts deleted at the same time, other theories have arisen.
Some have suggested that the accounts were deleted in response to a lawsuit which came to a head a few days prior. South Korea’s communications regulator fined TikTok Pte Ltd ₩186 million won ($155,000 USD) on July 15 after the company was found to be collecting the information of children under 14 without their parents’ permission.
As of right now, all the affected idols’ accounts are still functioning as usual on the international version of TikTok, and none of the artists’ agencies have given a statement on the deletion.