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2 Jun, 2020 14:22

TikTok blames tech glitch after users accuse it of censoring black voices during George Floyd protests

TikTok blames tech glitch after users accuse it of censoring black voices during George Floyd protests

Video-sharing platform TikTok has come under fire from users accusing it of censoring hashtags related to the ongoing US protests sparked by George Floyd's death. The company insists the issue was caused by a technical glitch.

Hashtags such as #GeorgeFloyd and #BlackLivesMatter were marked with zero views despite their subject matter dominating the news cycle and various social media for days, leading to one TikTok user tweeting that the company should “just admit your [sic] anti-black.”

Users of the platform, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, changed their profile pictures to black fists in solidarity with the protesters, while some on the social network have been encouraging others to blacklist those who did not support the movement.

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In a blog post published on Monday, Vanessa Pappas, TikTok US general manager, and Kudzi Chikumbu, director of creator community, responded to the slew of complaints by saying that “last week a technical glitch made it temporarily appear as if posts uploaded using #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd would receive 0 views.”

The “display issue,” they stated, had affected multiple hashtags unrelated to the protest as well. 

Following the hiccup, TikTok also revealed several “actionable” steps the platform was taking in order to “foster an inclusive environment on our platform,” such as the creation of a diversity council geared toward “recognizing and uplifting the voices driving culture, creativity, and important conversations on the platform.”

Another step includes “furthering the efforts of our internal diversity task force’ in order to see how its policies can better serve people of all backgrounds.” 

TikTok also said it would participate in ‘Blackout Tuesday,’ a social media event that emerged out of the music industry to create “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community,” marked by users posting black squares on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as silence on some radio channels. 

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Whilst such woke messaging may seem out of place for an app that makes its business from dancing grandmas and lip-syncing kids, TikTok has a dicey past it would probably prefer to be forgotten. Last year, it faced allegations that it suppressed videos related to anti-government protests in Hong Kong, leading to accusations that it was in the pocket of the Chinese government.

That same year, the platform was banned in India following charges of spreading child pornography. 

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