TikTok has issued an apology to its black community following allegations that the platform silenced their struggle against racism.
“Recently, our users have voiced tough but fair questions about whether all creators have an equal opportunity for their content to be seen and their experiences to be affirmed on TikTok,” says Vanessa Pappas, General Manager for TikTok.
“We acknowledge and apologize to our black creators and community who have felt unsafe, unsupported, or suppressed,” the TikTok apology reads.
TikTok has long faced accusations of censorship, first stemming from criticism of China’s human rights abuses. But now black creators say they have been discouraged from speaking out about systemic racism in America and police brutality. One creator spoke with BuzzFeed, saying she feels racism on TikTok is very blatant.
“The censorship of people speaking out against injustice paired with the allowance of white supremacists to have platforms is unacceptable and needs to change,” she says. Activists are encouraging users to leave 1-star reviews on the App Store and Google Play. I’m not sure how well that strategy will work since Google recently deleted over 5 million fraudulent 1-star reviews in India.
Activists say the most significant challenge black creators face on TikTok is being silenced by moderators.
Many creators supporting TikTok hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeforGeorge are reporting being shadow-banned. Others say that the content featuring those hashtags has been outright deleted from their profiles. The most commonly cited reason for its removal is “going against community guidelines.”
Those same guidelines have been revised time and time again as TikTok is caught discriminating. Earlier this year, we reported on the censorship of overweight, LGBT, and people TikTok deems ‘unattractive’ because they could become targets for bullies. But instead of addressing the bullying, TikTok would rather hide its vulnerable members.
As for muting hashtags, the TikTok apology glosses over the issue.
TikTok says those hashtags were hidden due to a “technical mishap that widely affected hashtags at large.” TikTok says it will improve moderation strategies to keep this from happening again. It also committed to establishing a creator diversity council.