Black creators on the wildly popular video social media platform TikTok said their accounts are being banned for unwarranted or strange reasons.
Some of the creators who’ve experienced the bans spoke to BuzzFeed News to share their experience.
The TikTokers told the outlet their accounts were banned either as a mistake in the platform’s algorithm or that a coordinated mass effort by users reported their pages as a form of harassment.
Some of the creators said their accounts were banned after receiving racist messages and threats.
They want TikTok to take their protection seriously, especially given the platform’s newly launched Black Creators incubation program last month.
Multiple spokespeople for TikTok told the outlet the company is “committed to seeing that our policies and practices are fair and equitable.”
Back in September, Cahleb Derry posted a video on his original account @cahlebd which had thousands of followers at the time. In the TikTok, he joked that “a cultural difference between white and Black people…[is] the idea that white people do not use an exfoliant in the shower.”
The video almost immediately went viral. A creator with more than 1.8 million followers responded to the joke, which Derry believes aided in his video getting more views.
Only 30 minutes after posting the video, the 22-year-old said he began receiving threats from white supremacists who sent private messages threatening to hang him, called him the N-word, and a “slave.”
“I was really terrified that this would escalate to me being doxxed on all my social media like other creators I know,” Derry said. The video response from the other creator was deleted because of the harassment Derry experienced. Before long, Derry received a message from TikTok saying his account was permanently banned.
Derry told BuzzFeed that he’s “positive” the ban was the result of mass reporting from other users.
“I imagine that people mass reporting my account reported me for some kind of racial harassment since my video referenced white people, systemic racism, homophobia, etc.,” he said. “I do not understand how TikTok could see the videos on my account, and see the accounts that were commenting ‘I would hang you’ and think my account was the problem.”
Derry appealed the platform’s decision, providing screenshots of the ensuing harassment, but says the platform told him his “violation” still stands.
Derry is not alone, Minnie Parks and Siete White, both 22, had their accounts banned without warning or clear understanding of their violations. Parks, who posts about racial injustices, said her account was locked “without reason or warning.” “All I do is simply educate and respond to racism and hate. And a lot of people don’t like that,” Parks said.
White said her account was locked while she was leading a meditation via live stream during the inauguration of Joe Biden. She said her feed was cut off abruptly.
“I got a notification saying I violated community guidelines,” White said. “I was taken aback because none of my content has come close to anything hateful… I don’t know if anyone reported [my livestream,] but it was very, very strange.”
White’s account was restored, but now all of her videos have a “community guideline violation” label.”
Representatives for the platform haven’t commented on which of White’s videos violated community guidelines.
“It’s very frustrating and very disheartening,” White said. “It feels as though externally they’re parading like ‘we love our Black creators and we’re here for you.’ But internally it feels like a large issue with something with their content moderations that’s very harshly policing Black, indigenous, and people of color’s content, and allowing the actual harmful content to slip through the cracks.”
Black creators want the platform to do more in denouncing white supremacy.
“Everyone knows Black culture, trends, and humor keeps these apps and the world going, yet we are treated as second-class citizens on those platforms,” Derry said. “Institutions like TikTok have to vocally denounce white supremacy and stop treating acts of white supremacy as one-off, isolated incidents.”
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