TikTok’s #BlackLivesMatter & #GeorgeFloyd Issues, Explained

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell.
A viral tweet from last night claimed TikTok had, "blocked the #BlackLivesMatter tag and every single tag related to George Floyd," the 46-year-old Black man who was killed by a white police officer on May 25 after the officer kneeled on his neck. The tweet included screenshots of a user’s attempt to add hashtags to a TikTok only to find that #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd appeared to have no videos, effectively accusing TikTok of erasing vital conversations that are taking place on the platform.
Refinery29 reached out to TikTok directly and was told that the problems shown in the screenshots have been identified as a, “pre-upload issue,” according to a TikTok spokesperson. And added that, “the hashtags and videos themselves were not affected.” When users tried to upload videos and add #BlackLivesMatter or #GeorgeFloyd hashtags, the tags' view count appeared as zero, despite the scale of the conversations surrounding police brutality and racism taking place on the platform. 

Before the pre-upload issue was identified, the viral tweet prompted Rachel Zelger, star of Steven Speilberg’s West Side Story, to criticize TikTok and ask her followers to delete their accounts just as she deleted hers. “The racism we’ve been calling out about your app, [especially] recently, is extremely apparent now,” she tweeted. In response, TikTok Support’s Twitter account tweeted for the first time, telling Zegler and the rest of Twitter that it is, “aware of an issue that is impacting the hashtag view counts displayed at the upload stage,” and adding that, “Our team is investigating and working quickly to address the issue.”
TikTok Support says this glitch affects a range of non-political tags, as well, such as #cat and #hello. These tags are still all searchable and the video-count for each does appear to be accurate when you search them on TikTok or click through from a video. However, they don’t load when you’re in the midst of uploading and tagging content.
In a statement to Refinery29, a TikTok spokesperson: "We are aware of an issue that is impacting the view count displayed on hashtags in the upload stage. This bug is affecting view count displays on hashtags at random in the Compose screen only but it is not affecting tags, videos, or discovery of uploaded content. Our team is investigating and working quickly to address the issue. We apologize for the confusion this is causing."
The instances of calling out racism that Zegler mentioned, likely referred to last week’s TikTok blackout: a protest organized by black TikTokers to sound the alarm on the platform’s uneven application of the community guidelines.

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