Plus, how Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” became a protest anthem.
Hello from The Goods’ twice-weekly newsletter! On Tuesdays, internet culture reporter Rebecca Jennings uses this space to update you all on what’s been going on in the world of TikTok. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? Different of? Email [email protected], and subscribe to The Goods’ newsletter here.
Over the weekend, there was only one story: the protests against police brutality and institutional racism that have spread all over America, and now the world, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. But on Twitter, rumors started to spread that TikTok was suppressing the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and others related to the movement.
To anyone familiar with TikTok and its parent company ByteDance’s history of censoring content deemed sensitive to certain governments, it wouldn’t sound all that surprising. Only this month, creators changed their avatars to the black power symbol and united on TikTok to protest the longtime censorship that black creators have faced for speaking out against racism.
The hashtag, though, was not actually banned — TikTok says it was experiencing a glitch that impacted hashtag view counts displayed during uploading, and the issue was resolved quickly. It’s why when I opened the app on Saturday, I was glad to see my For You feed filled almost exclusively with videos from creators of color speaking out about the ongoing protests.
Here are some of them:
- A cinematic video of the Minneapolis protests by comedian Kareem Rahma, who has made more than a dozen TikToks documenting the scene over the last few days
- A spoken word poem about white feminists and cultural appropriation
- A handy guide for who to unfollow on social media
- A helpful rebuttal for when people claim that riots undermine the movement
- A list of advice one TikToker’s mom would give him before going out in public to avoid getting hurt or killed by the police
- A beautiful animated tribute to black lives lost at the hands of police
- Lizzo explaining the very long history of racist police structures
In between donating to bail funds and other anti-racism organizations or supporting your local protest efforts, spend some time exploring the Black Lives Matter hashtag on TikTok — these are only a handful of the videos I came across over the weekend.
TikTok in the news
- TikTok has leased a massive new office space in the heart of Times Square, likely using some of that reported $3 billion in profit that ByteDance made last year.
- The TikTok competitors are swarming: Facebook’s new collaborative music-making app, Collab, launched its invite-only beta test last week, while Zynn, “a near button-for-button clone of TikTok” is actually paying users to sign up and watch its videos.
- Taylor Bryant at Nylon has a cool rundown of how and why TikTok has totally taken over the beauty industry.
- Taylor Lorenz at the New York Times explained ironic TikTok cults.
- The Washington Post profiled Charli D’Amelio, the most famous person on TikTok, with the same angle that seemingly all profiles of Charli D’Amelio feature: “She doesn’t know why she’s famous.” (At what point does this become sort of a neg?) In other Charli news, she posted a thoughtful video about Black Lives Matter to her 60 million followers this weekend.
- The bugs in your strawberries are fine.
At Mashable, Morgan Sung detailed how a remix of “This Is America” by Childish Gambino and Post Malone’s “Congratulations” became the unofficial anthem for the protests. For months, black TikTokers have been using the song, which is explicitly about police brutality, to highlight structural racism. When the remix began circulating, however, non-black TikTokers used it to make videos about other social issues, like campus sexual assault, lack of access to health care, and xenophobia.
That’s also when the song started to be appropriated by white TikTokers who attempted to expose prejudice against Trump supporters, or claim that, actually, America is fine and great. After the killing of George Floyd last week, however, many users set their videos of the protests to the song. Whether intentional or not, thanks to TikTok’s music library the sound acted as a hub for people searching for news and footage from the front lines, like an audio hashtag. It’s a neat way of exploiting tech features to organize for social causes.
One Last Thing
Here is a painfully on-point impression of what some white teen girls’ Instagram Stories looked like this weekend.
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Author: Rebecca Jennings