Julia Fox Apologizes After Misinterpreting TikTok’s Secret Meaning Of ‘Mascara’

One of TikTok’s messiest, most relatable celebrities, Julia Fox, has apologized for inadvertently making an insensitive comment on a video that used coded language to discuss sexual assault.

TikTok, notorious for its scattershot moderation, uses algorithms which censor content containing certain words and phrases. This leads to users keeping one step ahead of the algorithms by resorting to code words, such as “seggs” in place of sex, or “unalive” in place of suicide.

As the algorithm inevitably catches on to the code word, creators will pivot again, and use another word in its place; the evasive tactic is known as “algospeak,” and is changing the way we communicate online, and sometimes, sparking heated misunderstandings.

This constant gaming of the algorithm leads to increasingly abstract phrases being adopted as code words; some creators have been using “mascara” as a euphemism for sex, or penis, apparently due to the action of inserting a mascara wand in and out of its container.

TikTok creator @big_whip13 posted a video in which he discussed how he “gave a girl mascara and it must have been so good that she decided that her and her friend should both try it without my consent.” The user also tagged the video #saawareness, which indicates that it is sexual assault awareness content.

Fox, apparently assuming that the man was using the word “mascara” literally, commented: “Idk why but I don’t feel bad for u lol.” The video has since been viewed more than 8 million times, with Fox’s response igniting a backlash in which code-word-savvy users accused her of diminishing sexual assault.

While some users accused Fox of being online enough to know the code word, others pointed out that “algospeak” can often be niche, and confusing to outsiders.

Often, code words are used to discuss extremely sensitive subjects censored by the algorithm, and it is unfair to assume that all users understand the context.

TikTok is also notorious for gradually isolating users into walled gardens of content, specifically catered to their preferences, leading to niche trends being mistaken as mainstream; what one user sees on their timeline likely bears no resemblance to the timeline of another.

@big_whip13 posted a follow-up video reacting to Fox’s comment, which was viewed more than 1.3 million times, and used the phrase “segual assault” in place of sexual assault, a more direct form of algospeak.

Eventually, Fox was alerted to the backlash and apologized directly to the offended user, writing: “Hey babe I’m so sorry I really thought u were talking about mascara like as in make up.” She then posted a video to her followers explaining the situation.

TikTok is changing the way its users communicate with each other, and inadvertently creating new opportunities for controversy along the way; now, it’s only a matter of time before the algorithm catches on to the true meaning of “mascara.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2023/01/27/julia-fox-apologizes-after-misinterpreting-tiktoks-secret-meaning-to-mascara/