Creators are Fed Up with LGBTQ+ Censorship on TikTok
TikTok's reporting feature is being abused and it's hurting queer creators. Today is the beginning of Pride month in the USA, and TikTok is expected to dole out a Pride campaign similar to that of 2021.
TikTok's reporting feature is being abused and it's hurting queer creators.
It’s no secret that TikTok has a long history of censoring minority creators on their platform. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, the story is no different.
TikTok often positions itself as being 'creator first', touting itself as a supportive ally to minority communities. But, with thousands of marginalized creators being unfairly shadow-banned and censored, or even losing their accounts, you can understand our hesitation to take TikTok's word for it.
Today is the beginning of Pride month in the USA, and TikTok is expected to dole out a Pride campaign similar to that of 2021. The #ForYourPride campaign, a cheeky nod to #fyp, is an opportunity for TikTok to capitalize on LGBTQ+ content creators, projecting the image that the platform is supportive of the community's needs.
If you're a queer TikTok creator or consumer, the platform's PR team is quick to assert that the app has your back. However, this doesn't seem to describe the broad experience of LGBTQ+ creators on the platform...
TikTok's reporting tool is meant to enable users to help moderate unsafe and offensive content on the app — sounds reasonable enough, right? However, the feature is cause for real concern. The problem with this tool is threefold. First, the reporting tool is easily abused, because anyone can report anything for any reason. Second, there are punitive measures for creators that fall victim to abusive and targeted reporting. Third, the tool is very poorly moderated. The inherent design flaws of the tool, among other issues on the platform, make the app a difficult place for LGBTQ+ creators to thrive.
The Need for Action
We spoke with Joshua Snyder-Hill and Mark Egidi, two creators with LGBTQ+ audiences, about the need for TikTok to take real action:
"While TikTok will sit there, celebrate, and splash 'Pride' all over TikTok on June 1st, there are thousands and thousands of creators being silenced and banned based on the abuse of the reporting system." - Joshua Snyder-Hill
Snyder-Hill and Egidi have been working to bring this issue to light. To date, they have amassed the support of over 7,000 creators who have first-hand experience on the receiving end of the abusive reporting mechanism. Despite how widespread this issue is, TikTok has yet to acknowledge the problem. "TikTok is not responding. Whether that's intentional, or they're just unaware of it, the damage is nonetheless the same," Joshua explains.
How TikTok Can Build Trust with LGBTQ+ Creators
The widespread experience of being unfairly targeted is reflected in the palpable frustration felt among TikTok users. There are two expectations for TikTok that we hope will be implemented going forward:
- Provide increased transparency around their reporting mechanism
- Implement proper management of, and take responsibility for, their reporting mechanism
TikTok is a platform that exploded into the mainstream during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, promising both escapism and an opportunity to find community. When it comes to LGBTQ+ youth specifically, oftentimes virtual spaces and communities are their only access to queer spaces. LGBTQ+ creators are incredibly important contributors to the well-being of their audience.
"If you're going to make it a consequential, punitive tool, you need to make sure that you're properly and fairly managing it." - Joshua Snyder-Hill
TikTok can broadcast nice sounding press releases, hashtags, and all the slogans they want during this Pride month, but none of it means anything without the trust of queer creators on the app. Unfortunately, until now the LGBTQ+ community has seen little evidence that TikTok actually cares about their well-being.
So, TikTok, if you're ready to live up to your claims of being truly 'LGBTQ+ friendly', we need to start seeing more than just a hashtag and empty words.