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TikTok algorithm error sparks allegations of racial bias

Ziggi Tyler, a popular Black creator, posted viral videos demonstrating how he could not use phrases with the word "Black" in his Creator Marketplace bio.
A woman holds a Black Lives Matter flag during an event in remembrance of George Floyd outside the Minnesota State Capitol on May 24, 2021 in Saint Paul, Minn.
An event in remembrance of George Floyd outside the Minnesota state Capitol on May 24 in St. Paul.Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images file

A series of TikTok videos have gone viral featuring a user being censored for trying to put pro-Black Lives Matter phrases in his bio on the platform’s Creator Marketplace.

Ziggi Tyler, a popular Black TikTok creator with more than 370,000 followers, posted several videos this week demonstrating how he could not include phrases in his bio including the word “Black” without being immediately flagged for “inappropriate content.” The Creator Marketplace connects popular TikTok users with brands for promotions.


##greenscreenvideo I’m going live in 30 minutes to answer questions. Y’all need to get this message out. Please. ##fypシ ##fyp ##wrong ##justice

♬ original sound - Ziggi Tyler

Tyler tried a number of phrases, including ones declaring his support for “Black Lives Matter,” “black people,” “black voices” and “black success,” and simply stating “I am a black man” — all of which would immediately trigger a pop-up message prompting him to “remove any inappropriate content.”

But putting “supporting white supremacy” or “supporting white success” in his bio did not prompt the same inappropriate content message. Neither did “I am a neo-Nazi.”

Tyler’s videos gained wide attention on the platform, with two of them reaching more than 1 million views. His concerns also gained attention on Twitter.

TikTok has since apologized for the incident.

"Our TikTok Creator Marketplace protections, which flag phrases typically associated with hate speech, were erroneously set to flag phrases without respect to word order. We recognize and apologize for how frustrating this was to experience, and our team has fixed this significant error," a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News. "To be clear, Black Lives Matter does not violate our policies and currently has over 27B views on our platform."

The app mistakenly flagged Tyler’s phrases because its hate speech detector was triggered by the combination of the words “Black” and “audience,” because the latter contains the word “die.”

The incident is another instance of creators from marginalized communities alleging that they are being silenced on the platform. Several Jewish TikTok creators told NBC News in June that their content is regularly removed from the platform for alleged community guideline violations and they are often banned from posting for days at a time.

Tyler’s videos also come just weeks after some Black TikTok creators started a strike in which they refrain from creating a dance to a recently released Megan Thee Stallion song. The strike was undertaken in response to an ongoing issue on the platform in which non-Black creators gain success and notoriety by performing dances created by Black creators without giving them credit.

TikTok maintains that it is committed to supporting Black creators, citing its recently launched @BlackTikTok account, run by Black TikTok employees with the intent of creating a home for Black creators on the platform.