Investigating How the Success of TikTok Hinges on Black Creators’ Contributions




Morrison, Maddy

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Black creators on TikTok regularly create the trends, dances, and language that contribute to the social media app’s widespread success. However, Black creators have expressed that they do not receive proper credit for these contributions. A lack of research into TikTok and its cultural impacts contributes to these experiences of Black creators. Therefore, this study aims to determine whether the success of TikTok hinges on the creative contributions of its Black creators. Specifically, it investigates what Black creators are contributing to TikTok, what happens when these contributions hit virality, and who is receiving credit and benefits from these creations. To investigate the impact of Black creators on TikTok’s success, an analytical study of the TikTok For You Page was conducted, where every video by a Black creator, and every video by a white creator that used a distinct aspect of Black culture or creation, was recorded for a half hour period, every second day, for two weeks. In addition, a literature review was conducted that studied news articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts that discussed Black creators and their contributions to TikTok. The results revealed three key themes: the content Black creators produce on TikTok regularly become the most popular dances, phrases, trends, music, and discussions, receiving hundreds of millions of views; despite these contributions, Black creators rarely receive credit once their creations become viral, and are instead silenced on the app; and white creators often reap the benefits of Black creators’ contributions in the form of views, recognition, and wealth. These themes not only suggest that the creations of Black TikTok users are fueling the success and popularity of TikTok as an app, but they also suggest that Black creators are being appropriated, silenced, and discredited instead of receiving benefits from their viral creations. Thus, a body of research into Black cultural appropriation on TikTok is lacking. TikTok must take steps to recognize the contributions of their Black creators and rectify where the credit for these creations is being awarded.



TikTok cultural impact, TikTok virality, Black cultural appropriation, TikTok For You Page