TikTok on Tuesday apologized after users complained that it knowingly blocked posted featuring hashtags related to the death of George Floyd. The Chinese short-video app said that it will do more in the future to promote diversity on its platform and won't give users a chance to complain in the future.
The accusations against TikTok of censoring black voices come at a time when protests have erupted across the U.S. following the death of Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. TikTok, however, blamed a display issue that affected a wide array of hashtags that have been trending over the past few days.
TikTok Acknowledges Mistake
ByteDance-owned TikTok on Tuesday apologized to millions of users who complained that posts with the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd were shown to have zero views. The issue had been going on for the past few days. Users questioned the Chinese short-video app why it was suppressing the hashtags as protests continued across the United States following the death of George Floyd, who was pinned down by a white police officer and later died.
On May 28, Twitter user @revengedja posted a tweet showing screenshots of the TikTok app with searches of #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd hashtags showing zero views of videos. Following this, many users changed their profile pictures to a raised black fist —a symbol for the Black Power movement — and told others to unfollow TikTok users who are against the protests.
On Tuesday, TikTok issued an apology. "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.
TikTok Blames Display Issue
Although TikTok said sorry to its users, the company blamed a display issue stemming from a technical glitch that affected wide array of hashtags. In reality, videos with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag have so far generated more than 2 billion views, according to TikTok.
"A technical glitch made it temporarily appear as if posts uploaded using #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd would receive 0 views," TikTok added. The company said that it will do more to promote diversity on its platform and plans to set up a "creator diversity council" that will be vested with the responsibility of "recognizing and uplifting the voices driving culture, creativity, and important conversations on the platform."
However, this is not the first time TikTok has been accused of censorship. TikTok acknowledged that it suppressed disabled users' videos and it also reportedly hid videos of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Separately, the company has pledged to donate $3 million to charities in a bid to help the black community during the coronavirus pandemic and has committed another $1 million toward fighting racial injustice and inequality in the U.S.