TikTok said it fixed a “significant error” in its Creator Marketplace that “erroneously” flagged phrases as hate speech in response to a widely viewed video from a TikTok creator that appeared to show the platform marking words like “pro Black” and “Black Lives Matter” as “inappropriate content” on creator bios.
“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,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. “To be clear, Black Lives Matter does not violate our policies and currently has over 27B views on our platform.”
The video, posted on July 6 by the comedian Ziggi Tyler, showed Tyler attempting to edit his bio on the Creator Marketplace, a platform that connects creators and brands together for collaborations. (Creator Marketplace is currently in beta mode and is invite-only.) After numerous attempts, Tyler was unable to include phrases on his bio like “supporting Black Lives Matter,” “Black people,” “pro-Black,” “Black voices” and “Black success” — all of which appeared to be flagged as “inappropriate content,” according to a screen recording he shared on TikTok. But when Tyler replaced those phrases with “white,” as in “supporting white success,” “pro white” and “white voices,” his bio was accepted by the platform, according to his video. Other phrases like “supporting white supremacy” and “I am a neo nazi” were similarly accepted by the platform and not flagged as “inappropriate.”
“I am pissed the fuck off,” Tyler said in his video, which has over 1.3 million views. “We’re tired.”
@ziggityler#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
TikTok said the error was related to the word “audience” in Tyler’s bio, which had been flagged because of the word “die” inside of “audience.” That word, in connection with phrases that used the word “Black,” then triggered TikTok’s monitoring system to believe that the bio may have contained hate speech. “White supremacy,” on the other hand, was not flagged on its own because the phrase could have been used in conjunction with expressions that signaled the creator was against it, such as “fighting white supremacy,” according to TikTok.
This isn’t the first time TikTok — and other social media platforms — has been accused of racial bias and underserving its Black creators. Last year, TikTok’s then-general manager, Vanessa Pappas, apologized to Black TikTokers for a “technical glitch” that made it appear as if videos tagged with #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd had 0 views. This past month, many Black creators have also gone on a virtual “strike” by refusing to create dances to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single and prime TikTok dance material, “Thot Shit,” as a way to highlight how Black creators are often under-credited and under-appreciated for the content they create on the app.