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    This Viral TikTok Exposes Yet Another Way TikTok Suppresses Black Voices On The App

    "We're tired."

    TikTok has been rife with accusations of suppression of BIPOC voices while simultaneously profiting off of their culture since the app's inception.

    Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    These issues came to a head early last summer, when it seemed videos pertaining to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement were being taken down or glitching.

    In June 2020, TikTok even released a statement after a number of Black creators spoke out about their issues on the app. In their statement, TikTok promised to do better, which included creating a creator diversity council and bettering their technology and strategies to handle "potentially violative content."

    TikTok / Via

    However, many TikTokers have felt that the issues persisted, especially when it came to their content being flagged and taken down for unclear reasons while similar content from white creators was not. 

    The statement also addressed the glitch where videos with #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd as a hashtag would show zero views, calling it a display issue that "widely affected hashtags at large."

    The newest issue facing Black creators on TikTok comes with the new Creator Marketplace, which is an invite-only community within TikTok where creators can connect with brands who'd like to use their exposure.

    TikTok / Via

    TikToker Ziggi Tyler, who regularly posts comedy videos and stitches/duets, and has amassed a following of 368.8K followers, ran into an issue while writing his bio for the new feature. In a TikTok that's since gained over 1.3 million views, Ziggi demonstrates that you cannot use the word "Black" in your intro on the Creator Marketplace.


    #greenscreenvideo I’m going live in 30 minutes to answer questions. Y’all need to get this message out. Please. #fypシ #fyp #wrong #justice

    ♬ original sound - Ziggi Tyler

    Strangely enough, on my end the view count on this TikTok seemed to be glitching — there were periods where it would go from over a million to only 300,000 views, then back. Ziggi shared with BuzzFeed that it would glitch on his end as well, and that he'd gotten messages from others saying the view count was changing.

    "Black lives matter," "Black people," "Black voices," "Black success," and "pro-Black" were deemed "inappropriate content." However, the same phrases with the word "white" — such as "pro-white" — were accepted. Even "white supremacy" was accepted.

    @ziggityler / TikTok / Via

    In another TikTok (which was later deleted by TikTok, according to Ziggi, as it was deemed "hate speech"), he tried out terms for other marginalized groups, such as Asian Lives Matter. The app accepted these — it only had an issue with the world "Black."

    @ziggityler / TikTok

    In a different TikTok, he tried out words such as "anti-Semitic" and "neo Nazi" — his intro was accepted.

    @ziggityler / TikTok / Via

    After his video went viral, TikTok reached out to Ziggi via his personal Instagram page, apologizing for the "frustrating" situation.

    ziglicious / Instagram

    However, Ziggi didn't respond to their message. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Ziggi explained, "If I say yes, I would like to respond and work with you, I could see that being written off as — if they make a public statement about this specific issue — 'we talked to the creator; the issue was resolved.' But that's not changing the structure of inequities that are on the app for Black creators and people of color." He called the message strange and "gaslight-y," especially in regards to thanking him for "shedding light" on the issue, as it seems to be an issue that's written into the code of the app.

    It also appears TikTok has taken down the ability to add or edit an intro on the Creator Marketplace. And you cannot stitch or duet some of Ziggi's videos calling out the app.

    @ziggityler / TikTok / Via

    The app also went down while Ziggi was doing a livestream addressing his videos. "It looks weird. I'm not saying l, like, broke TikTok — I'm not saying that at all. But the timing in which this video was gaining traction and the fact that I had just posted a video calling them out...[the second video] got 200,000 views in less than an hour. So it, like, was climbing. So I'm like, if that was the rate it was going to continue at, they were probably like, 'shit.'"

    Other TikTokers also reached out to Ziggi to say that they'd shared the video, but that it seemed the views were glitching or inaccurate, or that they couldn't share the video on Instagram. 

    Ziggi told us how exhausting it can be to be a Black creator on an app that only seems to accept "palatable" Black creators (such as those creating comedy videos and not speaking out against injustice) and overall prioritizes thin, conventionally attractive white creators.

    @ziggityler / TikTok / Via

    Ziggi also spoke about his prior problems on the app, revealing he was kicked out of the Creator's Fund and placed on a six-month suspension due to having too many community guideline violations. He emphasized that community guidelines are not enforced equally, sharing a story of how he was once flagged because a small part of his chest was exposed for one second on a livestream, whereas white creators will be shirtless for an entire video and not get flagged. Ziggi also said a lot of his violations were from stitches and duets he'd done reacting to other videos, and that he'd gotten flagged while the original video did not.

    However, he thinks this is an issue not just at TikTok, but on other social media and video sharing sites as well, and is also representative of society at large.

    Tomas Cortez

    When asked about the video going viral, Ziggi described it as being both happy and sad. "The happiness is coming from...finally, we can see it. But the sad comes one's shocked." However, he emphasized that this response came from BIPOC on the app — white commenters often reacted with shock.  "All of this is a reflection of what our country looks like. It isn't groundbreaking news. But it's important news," Ziggi said. But on a TikTok-specific level, this shows, in Ziggi's opinion, that there are two very different sides of the app, and there is a large divide between the kind of content people of different races see. While he thinks other apps have similar issues, TikTok's algorithm is unique in that no one really knows how it works.

    When asked about what the ideal situation from here would be, Ziggi said, "I'm tired of the performative activism," mentioning TikTok's initiatives for Black creators during Black History Month and Juneteenth.

    @ziggityler / TikTok / Via

    He also spoke about appropriation on the app: "There's famous creators on here that have their entire careers based off of Black culture without giving the credit back to the Black creators who made these things for you." In the end, he doesn't know what the "ideal" situation would be, saying that the people behind TikTok are "grown-ups" and shouldn't need a 23-year-old to spell out the problems with their app to them. He also addressed TikTok's efforts to address these sort of complaints: "Are you taking these steps now because you actually want to change or because you're doing post-event damage control? You can say all the things you want to say, but we're not seeing a change, and that's the issue." 

    In a statement to BuzzFeed, TikTok clarified that "Black Lives Matter" was not flagged as potential hate speech, but that their hate speech protection tools were trying to protect against hate speech. In addition, they said that "Black Lives Matter" has never been banned and does not violate their policies.

    Katja Knupper/Die Fotowerft/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

    According to TikTok, it's a technical issue that caused Ziggi's intro to be flagged: the word "die" (which is contained within the word "audience") being in the same paragraph as "Black" and "people" caused their hate speech protection tool to flag the bio. This has now been modified, according to TikTok. Upon hearing this explanation, Ziggi wondered aloud to BuzzFeed why words such as "Arab," "white," and "Asian" did not cause the bio to be flagged when he tested them in his videos, if the tool was meant to protect against having the word "die" in a paragraph with different ethnic groups. 

    Here is TikTok's full statement: "Our TikTok Creator Marketplace protections, which flag phrases typically associated with hate speech, were erroneously set to flag phrases without respect to word order. We recognize and apologize for how frustrating this was to experience, and our team has fixed this significant error. To be clear, Black Lives Matter does not violate our policies and currently has over 27B views on our platform."

    If you'd like, you can follow Ziggi on TikTok, which he plans to leave at the end of the year, or on YouTube or Instagram.

    UPDATE: The post has been updated to include TikTok's official statement to BuzzFeed.

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