May 22, 2020

A popular influencer slammed TikTok, criticizing the app for highlighting ‘duplicates of the same people’ and not fostering a diverse culture

By Rachel E. Greenspan

In a recent livestream, Devenity Perkins, a singer, actor, and influencer, slammed TikTok for showing “duplicates of the same people” and favoring white creators over people of color.

“There are such beautiful, colored creators that have a huge ass following that not half of TikTok people know about. I’m so confused, why not? Why do they keep on pushing the same people, the same-looking people… It literally looks like duplicates of the same people,” Perkins said, according to a screen recording viewed by Insider.

“Add some f–king color on this app, we want to see diversity,” Perkins, 16, added. “How the f–k does TikTok feel when they keep on pushing a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, and there’s colored, young girls on this app that are seeing that as the ideal girl, as the dream girl.”

Perkins’ comments came soon after the #ImBlackMovement on Tuesday, which flooded the app with videos of people of color in a protest against the platform’s perceived lack of diversity. Many black creators and allies changed their profile pictures to an image of a raised black fist, the symbol of the Black Power movement.

To participate in the protest, TikTok users only liked and commented on videos from people of color for the day in an effort to bring more awareness to nonwhite creators and fill the For You Page with videos of black TikTokers. The protest also used the hashtag #BlackVoicesHeard, which has 42 million views as of Thursday morning.

The founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, Lex Scott, founded the protest because “black creators are being silenced on TikTok and other social media platforms and I am fed up,” she told CNN.

In a TikTok promoting the protest, Iman, @theemuse, said she hoped the movement would “stop the censorship of black people on this app.”

TikTok has faced criticism over its mysterious algorithm, which some creators say favors certain users over others.

In a memo obtained by The Intercept in March, the platform appeared to direct moderators to hide videos that were less “attractive.”

“If the character’s appearance or the shooting environment is not good, the video will be much less attractive,” the policy said, according to The Intercept. The policy made no mention of race, but did call out “ugly facial looks,” “facial deformities,” “abnormal body shape,” and weight as aspects to be looked out for. Still, some creators say it appears the platform recommends more content from white creators.

Issues of race have come up repeatedly on the app, most notably when Charli D’Amelio, the most-followed person on the platform, popularized the “Renegade” dance and was largely viewed as its creator. While D’Amelio certainly made the dance into the megapopular hit it has become, Jalaiah Harmon, who is black, choreographed the original dance.

That’s a trend that has been an important aspect of TikTok culture in the last year. But the onus is not completely on the app — creators are responsible for whether or not they choose to give credit where credit is due, and D’Amelio has tried to promote Harmon and her page since discovering she had choreographed the “Renegade.”

As Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times wrote in February, TikTok “has become synonymous with dance culture. Yet many of its most popular dances, including the Renegade, Holy Moly Donut Shop, the Mmmxneil and Cookie Shop have come from young black creators on myriad smaller apps.”