The internet was built on free speech and thrives on the lack of gatekeepers. Black TikTok content creators can make a living if they can get credit or until they speak up.
Can Black TikTok Creators Be Pro-Black?
In a recent article from Essence, Black TikTok creators Conscious Lee and Ziggi describe their experiences and why they are moving to other platforms like FanBase. Why the move? The creators have been experiencing "shadowbans," a practice where the algorithm implicitly hides your post and drops the engagement rate. They claim TikTok, in this case, is tanking their visibility when they speak up on causes that personally affect them and has even caused denials into the TikTok Creator Fund Program.
"I think one of the worst forms of suppression I’ve faced on TikTok was when I tried to join the TikTok Creator Fund and Marketplace. While writing my bio for the Marketplace, when I put two movements I identify with, Black Lives Matter & LGBTQ, TikTok flagged it as “inappropriate content or banned” and I was not allowed to use those words. However, I could type in White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi, and other words that are criminal with no backlash from TikTok. This is blatant racism.
I also noticed that my followers will often drop dramatically, and when I posted a TikTok asking people to check if they were still following me, they realized they weren’t but they never manually unfollowed me, so TikTok is suppressing my platform even further. Also, my videos have dropped in viewership once I began talking about topics around black creators, and there is no reason that my videos should be getting only a couple thousand views when I used to get 30K. That is why I am beginning to start moving to Fanbase as Fanbase is not an ad-based platform, rather it is focused on followers and monetization for everyone. "Ziggi Tyler, After Facing Discrimination On TikTok, These Content Creators Created Their Own eCommunity, Essence
Fanbase is an excellent alternative to those who can easily monetize their content. Still, the issues that arise are the viability of moving an audience to a new platform, whether the said platform will exist in the future, and missing lucrative opportunities in the now traditional social media ecosphere.
Getting Credit on Social Media
In the last calendar year, black content creators have learned some hard lessons about how much freedom they have on their platform. Early 2020 produced the Renegade challenge that Jalaiah Harmon started. Jalaiah is one of the most notable examples of a black creator who had to get credit on the backend. Not everyone is so fortunate, but the community stood up for her and has since elevated her to the place she deserves.
A lot of the conversation centered around content has been about monetization. TikTok claims to be working on the way to give original choreography credit on the platform. The problem that has plagued these A.I. platforms is that it does not see black people as...people. This issue is chronicled in the 2020 documentary film "Coded Bias," where Joy Buolamwini researches facial recognition technologies at the M.I.T. discovered "that some algorithms could not detect dark-skinned faces or classify women with accuracy."
Will they get dance moves right if they can't tell it's a face? Only time will tell. In the meantime, the fight for equality on these platforms may be an uphill one for those most passionate. The ones who are not making anybody uncomfortable seem to be thriving more and more every day, but if you can't freely speak your truth, how much of your platform is really yours, to begin with?