Yesterday (May 29), TikTok was criticised for allegedly censoring hashtags related to Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, the 46-year-old African American man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on Monday (May 25). Specifically, users found that the tags appeared to have zero views when they were added to a post, despite widespread conversation about the killing and subsequent protests on the app.
While the issue with the view count only occurred when users were composing a post, it potentially discouraged them from taking part in this conversation and misrepresented the outpouring of solidarity from other users and activists. This comes off the back of similar protests last week, when TikTok users staged a “blackout” to draw attention to the unfair censorship of black creators.
TikTok has since responded to the recent criticism, however, saying that the view count issue was related to a technical bug, rather than an attempt at censorship. “We are aware of an issue that is impacting the hashtag view counts displayed at the upload stage,” the social media platform wrote in a tweet on May 29. “This appears to affect words at random, including terms like #cat and #hello. Our team is investigating and working quickly to address the issue.”
As of writing, the view counts have been made visible. The #BlackLivesMatter tag shows over 850 million views, while #GeorgeFloyd has over 300 million.
Many of the posts show video of the ongoing protests, drawing attention to the presence of armed police and their heavily-documented use of materials such as tear gas. Often, the TikToks are appropriately soundtracked by Childish Gambino’s song about racial tensions and violence in the country, “This Is America”.
Earlier this week, Dazed outlined how to be an ally in a time requiring more than just hashtags, drawing on posts and resources made by the black community.