Tiktok apologized Thursday to users after many accused the popular short video app of censoring certain hashtags related to the current protests that were upload by black creators.

Why it matters: Tiktok, owned by Beijing-based startup Bytedance, faces increasing scrutiny in the US over alleged content censorship. It was previously reported that the app censors specific topics that were deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese government.

  • Tiktok has recently stepped up efforts in an attempt to address concerns over its content moderation policies and its tie with Beijing. The company hired a former Disney executive as its CEO last month and planned to set up a content moderation transparency center in its US office.

Details: Tiktok users accused the platform last week of censoring hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd amid nationwide protests in the US against the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed during a police arrest on May 25.

  • Before the platform made adjustments, Tiktok users found the search results of the two hashtags showed they had “zero views.” 
  • In a company statement signed by its US General Manager Vanessa Pappas and Director of Creator Community Kudzi Chikumbu, Tiktok attributed the alleged censorship of #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd to “a technical glitch.”
  • The company said users can still see videos with the two hashtags and that videos with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag had generated more than 2 billion views on the platform.
  • “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,” said the statement.
  • Tiktok said it would increase investment in its technology and moderation strategy and establish a creator diversity council to amplify diverse voices. The company would donate $3 million to non-profits that help the black community, said the statement, though it didn’t name any specific organizations.

Cotext: Before this, many Tiktok users launched a campaign by changing their profile pictures to a black power symbol after accusations that the app censored content uploaded by black creators, according to CNN.

  • In December, the app was accused of censoring content by creators it deemed to be “vulnerable to cyberbullying.” Users that were considered vulnerable included those with facial disfigurements, autism, and Down syndrome, as well as LGBT and overweight individuals.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...