TikTok sound with top videos (l) TikTok video with 60k views (c) TikTok sound with top videos caption 'Black people never float to the top of the sound no matter what trend it is' (r)

@fatangryblackgirl/TikTok

Why are videos from Black creators rarely at the top of TikTok sounds?

Black creators and TikTok users aren’t getting credit where credit is due.

 

Tricia Crimmins

IRL

Posted on Jan 4, 2023   Updated on Jan 5, 2023, 6:27 am CST

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Problematic On TikTok

Analysis

In an October video, TikToker Catherine (@fatangryblackgirl) pointed out that Black TikTokers “never float to the top of the sound no matter what the trend is.” Upon a further, limited investigation, she’s right.

TikTok organizes videos by sound, among other ways, so users can click on a sound to see the videos in which it’s used. The most liked, shared, and viewed videos appear at the top of the sound’s page. Catherine used the #SomeCutChallenge, a TikTok dance originated by singer Victoria Monet, who is Black, as an example.

In her TikTok, she shows a screen recording of two Black women doing the dance in a viral TikTok. When she clicks the sound, though, the top videos that use the audio show non-Black TikTokers, many of whom are white—with the exception of Monet’s videos.

A late December look at the sound’s TikTok page shows similar results to Catherine’s. Besides a video from Liza Koshy, who is Black, the top videos under the sound are from non-Black, mostly white creators, doing the dance.

Another recent TikTok dance yields the same results: The TikTok sound page for the Last Christmas dance, a TikTok dance set to a sped up version of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” shows all white creators at the top. In fact, it takes a couple scrolls to get to a video from a non-white TikToker.

Renegade, one of TikTok’s most viral dance challenges, was choreographed by Jalaiah Harmon, who is Black. But the sound’s TikTok page, which houses over 17 million videos, shows the D’amelio sisters, who are white, at the top multiple times. Harmon is not shown in the top 40 videos that use the Renegade sound.

Why it matters

Black creators and TikTok users aren’t getting credit where credit is due—or the TikTok algorithm isn’t putting their videos on user’s for you pages the way it does for white TikTokers.

According to an April 2021 research from the Pew Research Center, 30% of Black adults in the U.S. use TikTok, as opposed to 18% of white adults. And in September of that year, the app hit a billion users, meaning that the number of Black creators have only increased (if Pew’s findings remain consistent).

TikTok’s algorithm allows each user to have a distinct For You Page tailored to their interests based on what videos they watch, like, share, search for, and comment on, and in TikTok’s 2023 trend report, the app boasts that “sharing hyper-niche interests helps people bond with each other.”

But videos from creators of color shouldn’t be hyper-niche and only shown to select communities on TikTok, especially Black TikTokers are participating in app-wide trends.

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*First Published: Jan 4, 2023, 6:00 am CST