Black developers on TikTok claim that the popular social media app is still “forbidding their content in the shade”, despite weeks of criticism of the platform that the company has promised to better support color artists. The ban on shadows refers to the blocking or partial blocking of a user or its content from a web forum, so that the user is not immediately aware that he has been blocked.
Black creators told Digital Trends that they saw their follower and view counts shrink dramatically after reporting racism in the app or the Black Lives Matter movement, or after generally speaking about races. Some claim that they removed their videos for no reason ̵
“I removed several videos and they don’t respond at all,” said Nakita David, who has 380,000 followers in the app, in an interview with Digital Trends. “If you work really hard on a video and TikTok just deletes it for some reason, it’s the worst pain.”
Another creator, Cindy Manu, 19, who lives in South London, said when she started her TikTok in September 2019, she received an average of over 50,000 views. It was featured regularly on the coveted “For You” page of the app, where popular videos are shown to a wider audience, and attracted millions of visitors.
Then, as global protests against Black Lives Matter increased, Manu noticed that videos in her feed had disappeared, and her number of views dropped sharply to just a few hundred views, although she hadn’t changed her content at all.
“I actually looked through my videos again to see if something was explicit or swearing, but there was literally nothing,” she said to Digital Trends. “It became clear to me that TikTok took it down by itself. It really annoyed me. ”
A TikTok spokesman denied the claim in a statement against digital trends.
“This is not something we are doing,” said AB Obi-Okoye, a spokesman for TikTok, in an email to Digital Trends about the ban on shadows. “We make our community guidelines public and encourage users to review them so they understand what kind of content is not allowed on the platform. Users can also object to decisions that they believe were made incorrectly. “
TikTok has come under fire from the US government not only because of security concerns in the past few weeks, but also because it moderates the content of its 800 million active users.
TikTok has been accused of hiding hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, suppressing content related to protests in Hong Kong and hindering the reach of videos with disabilities.
Internal documents obtained from The Intercept also showed that moderators were instructed to suppress content created by users who were rated as “too ugly, poor or disabled”.
In May, thousands of TikTok users changed their profile pictures to the Black Power icon to demonstrate support for Black Creators that have been reported to be censored in the app. Users were also asked to follow Black’s creators and share their content instead of their own.
“I knew people who had been there for years and had only 200 followers,” said Lex Scott, organizer of the May # BlackoutTuesday protest against TikTok and founder of the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, in an interview with Digital Trends. “Then you see how these people increase from 200 trailers to over 10,000 during the blackout. It was really powerful. “
After protesting the app, TikTok released a series of measures to better support the black creators. In June, the company said, “We acknowledge and apologize to our black creators and community who have felt insecure, unsupported, or oppressed.”
TikTok added that “concrete action” would be needed to build a better, more comprehensive platform.
But some black creators and activists, like Scott, believe that TikTok’s promises were short-lived.
“I’m prohibited from shadows,” said Scott. “Our content is being restricted, and I believe that this is the intention. I think we all just want to know why they are doing this to us. “
David, who publishes comedy and comments, said that her posts about Black Lives Matter are no longer as good as when she created her account late last year.
“It has been a lot worse since you said you would start working with black creators,” she said. “The Black Lives Matter movement can no longer be seen on TikTok. It’s really sad.”
“It affects your mental health”
Black creators like David and Manu have tried to contact TikTok to understand why their posts were deleted or how they violated community guidelines, but said they had received no response.
“It affects your mental health,” said Manu. “You think it is your fault that your videos are not going well,” said Manu.
And since the influencer industry has become a lucrative career path for social media connoisseurs, the shadow ban also threatens another key aspect in the life of a black creator: income.
“I had brand deals and promos, but now everything came to a standstill,” said Manu. “I got a few months ago [direct messages];; Now I have nothing left and I have stopped winning followers. “
Before her follower count reached a plateau and her views waned, Manu said that she was able to navigate through promotions regularly and earn bonus income alongside her work as a retail store clerk. Now, she said, she’s just frustrated.
“Everything just looked promising,” said Manu. “I feel like I came out and did good content and just got 500 views. Now I have to work twice as hard to get my content out as a white creator. “
Both Manu and David plan to draw their attention to other social media platforms outside of TikTok – such as YouTube and Instagram – especially if they continue to feel that their content is prohibited in the shade.
“I think TikTok has to be more diverse,” said David. “TikTok is a stepping stone, but you can never rely on TikTok because it is inconsistent.”