- A TikTok went viral after appearing to show racial bias in the app’s Creator Marketplace algorithm.
- Phrases like “Black Lives Matter” looked to be flagged as inappropriate by TikTok.
- TikTok apologised for the “significant error” and said it is working to fix it.
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TikTok has apologised after a viral video on the app suggested that there was racial bias in the app’s algorithm, alleging that phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “black people” are blocked from its Creator Marketplace, while “white supremacy” is not.
The video was posted on July 6 by content creator Ziggi Tyler. Tyler, 23, is a popular comedy TikToker with over 300,000 followers.
The Creator Marketplace, which was launched by TikTok in late 2019, is an invite-only platform that connects popular TikTok account holders and influencers with brands.
In footage that Tyler says is from his own screen recording, phrases like “supporting black excellence” and “pro black” appeared to be flagged by TikTok, while phrases like “supporting white excellence” and “pro white” were not.
“They are the same adjectives,” Tyler said in the video. “We are tired.”
Later that day, Tyler posted a follow-up TikTok. The video, which has been viewed 1.1 million times, suggested that phrases such as “I am a neo Nazi” and “I am an anti-Semite” weren’t flagged on the Creator Marketplace while phrases such as “I am a Black man” were.
In response to the videos, a TikTok spokesperson told Insider: “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 is working quickly to fix this significant error. To be clear, Black Lives Matter does not violate our policies and currently has over 27 billion views on our platform.”
This isn’t the first time TikTok’s algorithm has caused controversy among marginalised communities. In May, an experiment by Media Matters, a non-profit media watchdog, found that TikTok’s algorithm was promoting homophobic and transphobic content to viewers.
As part of the experiment, the watchdog created a dummy account, and Media Matters found that liking just one anti-LGBTQ+ video on the account led to TikTok recommending many more videos of that kind.
A TikTok spokesperson told Insider at the time that it is “committed to supporting and uplifting” LGBTQ voices. “We work to create a welcoming community environment by removing anti-LGBTQ+ videos and accounts that attempt to spread hateful ideas on our platform,” the spokesperson added.
Recently, black creators on TikTok also went on “strike” to call out dance appropriation on the app – something that top TikTokers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have been criticised for, due to not crediting black creators when performing TikTok dances on their platform or on televised appearances.
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