TikTok has released an apology and formal statement after a glitch in the platform appeared to censor content related to the US protests over George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police.
Earlier this week, TikTok users began reporting that the search results for the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd showed zero views. Many accused the platform, which is owned by Chinese company Bytedance, of deliberately stifling the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement.
TikTok allegedly censoring Black Lives Matter and George Floyd related content. Black Lives Matter hashtag and every single George Floyd related hashtag gets absolutely no views and are allegedly not being suggested to users. Is this a glitch, or is TikTok doing this on purpose? pic.twitter.com/LmQPd3KSup— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) May 29, 2020
TikTok allegedly censoring Black Lives Matter and George Floyd related content. Black Lives Matter hashtag and every single George Floyd related hashtag gets absolutely no views and are allegedly not being suggested to users. Is this a glitch, or is TikTok doing this on purpose? pic.twitter.com/LmQPd3KSup
— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) May 29, 2020
The official statement, titled “A message to our Black community,” comes from Vanessa Pappas and Kudzi Chikumbu, TikTok US General Manager and Director of Creator Community respectively. In it, they say that the incident was a “display issue only that widely affected hashtags at large.”
“Nevertheless, we understand that many assumed this bug to be an intentional act to suppress the experiences and invalidate the emotions felt by the Black community. And we know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust.”
They also pledged to donate a total of 4 million USD to coronavirus relief efforts and to funds related to other causes that disproportionately affect the black community. Users later found that the “glitch” had been fixed, and that other popular hashtags had been similarly affected.
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TikTok has previously come under fire in the US for censoring posts related to users with disabilities, as well as several China-specific issues. Some US lawmakers have even suggested that the app poses a threat to national security due to its alleged ties to the CCP. Part of TikTok’s response has been to open a “content moderation center” in its Los Angeles office in March of this year in the hopes that this will be seen to offer more transparency in the US.
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