Call it a futile act of defiance…
Two months ago, I got an account on TikTok and it’s been a VERY interesting experience… In this time, I gained about 2000 followers, got censored for putting racist trolls in their place, and have since been shadow-banned. For those of you who follow the news, you may only know of this app as one of the latest political distractions that President Trump and his cronies are using to divert the public’s attention. But I’ll describe it for you today as a user.
THE TIKTOK PLATFORM:
Consider TikTok as a user-friendly (despite the glitches) cross between Instagram and Snapchat. You can use filters, record, and post like you do on Snapchat, but it stays up like permanently on a “board” like Instagram. What makes TikTok a bit different from Instagram and Snapchat though is that there are other functions: such as being able to put up screens in the background, “duet” others (share recordings), or add audio from an ever-growing library, etc. The central page is the “For You” page, where posts should end up. When one watches videos, they play in a loop.
As one gains followers, the functionality of the app improves. For example, you can only go live after you get 1000 followers. It’s relatively easy to gain followers too. But understanding what yields positive results from the almighty algorithm that dictates what goes viral can be difficult, especially for new users. (It still is for me.) So far, I have learned that if one is successful in following popular trends (which could arguably be seen as a form of social regimentation that promotes uniformity) or consistently posts within a niche (or two), you can gain popularity on the app. You may be thinking, ‘That’s what a trend is: when a bunch of different people do the same thing.’ In reply, I’d say: “Yeah, but unlike Instagram or Twitter, ‘same’ on works in a denotative manner rather than a connotative manner. On Instagram or Twitter, “same” actually connotes “similar”. But that’s not the case on TikTok: to get lots of views as you participate in a trend, you have to do exactly what everyone else is doing exactly how they’re doing it. You as the content producer are the only variant element in the entertainment equation. Trust me, I have tried this out and seen it for myself. That’s why I go so far to call it “social regimentation”.
Ultimately, copy-catting well enough can lead to money, which can lead to business deals, and so on and so forth. Not understanding these informal rules of TikTok could leave your profile insignificant (no likes, follows, shares, comments, etc.), or a target for elimination by TikTok officials as an “inactive” account.
Asian (Chinese) Surveillance: Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t post anything that’s critical of mainland Asia, the behavior of mainland Asians, their governments or mainland Asian culture. This becomes especially true when the Asians in question are the Chinese. They suppress viewership of all such videos.
White “Colonialism”, White Cultural Appropriation & Black Americans As The Primary Source Of Content: What was once an inaccessible Chinese app was rapidly colonized by Whites. There are even videos of Asian content creators complaining about this on the app. White people on the app, especially White Americans, receive the lion’s share of attention (visibility on the For You page), endorsements, and resultant financial opportunities. This is ironic for two reasons: 1) A good bunch of the most popular White content providers (especially White American ones) get much of their content (dances, music, etc.) from Black Americans, yet: 2) Black Americans don’t get nearly the same amount of likes, comments, follows, exposure or pay for actually creating that content and doing the exact same things. Black TikTokers (and other non-white TikTokers) have formally complained about this disparity repeatedly. A fund was even started to support them on the app. But that fund to support Black TikTokers continues to be underfunded despite the TikTok’s pLeDgE (via the Creator Diversity Collective, etc.) to improve. The marginalization of Black people also continues in other ways…
Fascism: Fascism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation and race above the individual and that stands for a centralized, autocratic government led by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”.
Keywords for TikTok? “A political philosophy that exalts nation and race [by standing] for severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”.
I already mentioned the toxic (Chinese) nationalism and pro-Asian race theme on TikTok. I also mentioned the social regimentation (forced uniformity for visibility) and how the economic opportunities are not as readily afforded to Black TikTokers as they are to others. But now I’ll speak about the suppression of content on TikTok.
Suppression is the number one tactic that TikTok uses to censor counternarratives that they don’t like. Currently in the world, there are many horrible things being done to humans and the earth by humans: For example, Uyghurs in China are being held in Chinese concentration camps. Hawaiian land continues to be forcibly taken and annexed by (white) Americans and East Asians for hotels, beach resorts and vacation homes. China continues to encroach in Africa, coveting its resources. The corporations of the western world and the ultra-rich exacerbate climate change problems by ignoring warnings from scientists, continuing offshore drilling, and the mining of earth metals and gems in Africa. The uber-rich in the western world also prostitute governments and underage children. Drug cartels continue to displace people in Latin America with their drug wars. COVID-19, a virus that should have been containable, is ravishing the earth and disproportionately affecting non-whites. Black people in the United States are being lynched and murdered by cops in the street indiscriminately and with impunity.
These are horrific times. It makes total sense that the victims of any of these predators: the Chinese government, entitled white people, the uber-rich of the western world, capitalist corporations, drug cartels, COVID-19 morbidity, or anti-Black racism (etc.) would want to speak out about it on whatever platforms they have. But advocacy doesn’t make sense to TikTok. There have been multiple reports of TikTok suppressing resistance content, such as anti-police brutality rhetoric, breaking news about financial scandals, and Black Lives Matter protest content. Yet, the white supremacists on the app seem to have a green light to practice mob rule. One thing that the white supremacists like to do is flood the page of a target content creator (especially BIPOC ones) with racist comments to harass them. Then they report their target’s videos and comments. It only takes so many warnings from TikTok about these reports before one can be banned from the app. TikTok does not seem to care about the context under which the reports were filed (whether in jest or not).
TikTok can also choose not to ban you. Instead, they can put you in “time out” (like they did me) for a few days and take away your ability to comment—even on your own posts. (What happened? Long story short, a racist who thought that I wouldn’t insult him back came onto my page talking crap. I put him in his place with a couple of insults of my own, and then this clown reported all my comments. Talk about playing the victim! If this is a duel, then expect to get cut! Don’t hit first and cry later, wtf?!)
TikTok can also just choose to take down your video, take the audio away from your video, or suppress your videos so that the amount of people that would normally see them, don’t. For example, let’s say you have 2500 followers. Roughly 10% of that number should see any one of your videos at any given time. Yet, your newest video about someone groping you on the train while you were in China only has 12 videos. That’s TikTok suppression. When this continues to happen over extended amounts of time, it’s fair to say that you’ve been “Shadow-Banned” (like I am right now lol).
What is “Shadow-Banning” on TikTok? It’s when an account abruptly (and persistently) stops receiving traffic (views, likes, comments, shares, etc.) from the For You page. It is an incredibly interesting phenomenon. You don’t get any warning from TikTok administrators that they intend to do it to you at all. You’re still able to go about your normal functions in the app: but all the content you put out is suppressed. This can happen to anyone, but it’s more likely to hurt smaller accounts more (<50K followers).
I’m currently figuring out how (and if I can) stop being Shadow Banned. I’ve had no luck so far, but I’ll let you guys know if anything interesting happens.