Viral

TikTok admits ‘significant’ error in algorithm after user highlighted ‘racial bias’ in video

<p>Content creator Ziggi Tyler found that the TikTok algorithm seemed to have a racial bias  in terms of which phrases the platform allows.</p>

Content creator Ziggi Tyler found that the TikTok algorithm seemed to have a racial bias in terms of which phrases the platform allows.

Photo Credit: MaxHomo/Twitter, ZiggyTyler/TikTok.

This week, TikTok content creator Ziggi Tyler says he made a startling discovery: The TikTok algorithm seems to have a racial bias in terms of which phrases the platform allows users to upload.

The phrases “Black Lives Matter,” “Black people,” and “supporting Black excellence” were blocked from the platform’s Creator Marketplace, while “white supremacy” and “supporting white excellence” were not.

Tyler took to TikTok to broadcast his experience on the Creator Marketplace, which is an invite-only platform connecting popular TikTok accounts with brands, sort of like a built-in branding agency. It’s potentially lucrative for both brands and influencers — but considering Tyler’s discovery, its algorithm could be detrimental for creators of colour.

”If you care about supporting POC creators, then watch this,” Tyler’s text overlay reads, just as he demonstrates what happens when he submits requests for the marketplace using various phrases.

First, Tyler writes “supporting white supremacy,” and the request goes through. When he types “Supporting Black lives matter,” however, TikTok flags the content as “inappropriate.” Tyler tries again with “Black voices,” “Black success,” and even just the word “Black” — to no avail.

“To continue, remove any inappropriate content,” a warning continually reads at the top of the screen, anytime there is mention of something “Black.”

However, when Tyler replaces “Black” with “white” — repeating the same phrases he had tried before and only swapping the race — Tiktok allows the request to go through. “They’re the same adjectives,” Tyler observes, noticeably fed up.

Tyler posted a follow-up clip later in the day, sharing similar screen grabs that also seemingly demonstrate the racial-bias in the app’s algorithm. Tyler writes, “I am a neo Nazi” and “I am anti-semitic,” and successfully makes it through to the Creator Marketplace. However, the request is flagged as “inappropriate” flag once he submits “I am a Black man.”

In response to the aforementioned allegations, TikTok told Indy100: “Our TikTok Creator Marketplace protections, which flag phrases typically associated with hate speech, were erroneously set to flag phrases without respect to word order,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “We recognize and apologize for how frustrating this was to experience, and our team has fixed this significant error. To be clear, Black Lives Matter does not violate our policies and currently has over 27B views on our platform.”

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