Juneteenth Protest Hits Social Media Platform ‘TikTok' Amid Censoring Claims

Black creators accuse TikTok of suppressing their content and messages of racial injustice

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Social media giant TikTok has exploded in popularity with an estimated 800 million active users worldwide but an increasing number of black creators are coming forward saying TikTok is suppressing their content.

"Tik Tok is manipulating the accounts of minorities and silencing our accounts through censorship," said Anthony Merriweather who uses the application frequently.

We don't need creative oppression

Anthony Merriweather

After tracking his analytics closely for the past several months and seeing the complaints from other black users, Merriweather believes TikTok is manipulating his posts to keep them from being shared and gaining traction.

"Numbers don't lie, but they can be manipulated and that's what's happening," said Merriweather. "You already have systemic oppression, you already have physical oppression, we don't need creative oppression, you need a creative outlet."

TikTok, a Chinese-owned platform, has faced similar accusations in the past after several news agencies obtained documents instructing staff to censor users deemed ugly, poor, or disabled.

A spokesperson called it an early, blunt attempt to prevent bullying, which was not the correct approach and has since ended.

But, last month many users raised concerns after they noticed videos tagged #GeorgeFloyd or #BlackLivesMatter were hard to find. TikTok later apologized calling it a technical glitch and a display issue only.

"It's not a coincidence, it's not an algorithm, it's an intentional decision that was implemented to censor," said Merriweather.

Merriweather is one of the organizers of a Juneteenth protest where users were instructed to post 19 blanked out videos.

But TikTok is also highlighting the holiday with a special banner and an informational page dedicated to Juneteenth.

By late Friday afternoon, #Juneteenth was trending with more than 17 million views.

A spokesperson for TikTok tells NBC 7 they will remove videos and accounts that violate community guidelines but they do not alter the reach of videos based on things like race, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.

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