TikTok apologizes after being accused of censoring #BlackLivesMatter posts

Key Points
  • TikTok users accused the app of suppressing black voices after noticing the #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd hashtags had zero views.
  • The company said it was down to a technical issue that affected other hashtags too.
The Logo of social media app TikTok (also known as Douyin) is displayed on a smartphone on December 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.
Thomas Trutschel | Photothek | Getty Images

TikTok has said sorry after users complained that posts with the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd were shown to have zero views.

Users questioned why the short-video app, which is owned by China's ByteDance, was supressing the hashtags as protests sweep across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis just over one week ago.

A number of users changed their profile pictures to a raised black fist, which is a symbol for the Black Power movement, and several told others to unfollow TikTok users that are against the protests.

"We acknowledge and apologize to our Black creators and community who have felt unsafe, unsupported, or suppressed," wrote Vanessa Pappas, TikTok U.S. general manager, and Kudzi Chikumbu, director of creator community, in a blog post.

The issue was contained to the compose screen when users were adding hashtags to captions. Users who typed #BlackLivesMatter or #GeorgeFlyod into their video captions were told the hashtag had zero views. However, the true view count was shown when users searched the app for videos that had been given the hashtags.

"A technical glitch made it temporarily appear as if posts uploaded using #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd would receive 0 views," they continued, adding that posts with these hashtags actually had over 2 billion views.

Other popular hashtags including #cat and #dad were also affected by the issue, which started on Thursday and was fixed by Friday.

TikTok said it plans to set up a "creator diversity council" that will be tasked with "recognizing and uplifting the voices driving culture, creativity, and important conversations on the platform."

The company has pledged to donate $3 million to charities helping the black community during the coronavirus pandemic and commit another $1 million toward fighting racial injustice and inequality in the U.S..

In a separate post on TikTok, the company's incoming CEO, Kevin Mayer, said: "As I begin my work at TikTok, it has never been a more important time to support Black employees, users, creators, artists, and our broader community."

"Words can only go so far. I invite our community to hold us accountable for the actions we take over the coming weeks, months, and years."

Hundreds of TikTok users have posted images of black squares to the platform with the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackOutTuesday hashtags. However, some users are concerned the sheer number of users doing this is clogging up the hashtag and making it harder for protest videos and other important information to get through.

This is not the first time TikTok has been accused of censorship. The company acknowledged that it suppressed disabled users' videos and it also reportedly hid videos of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.