On TikTok, when Megan Thee Stallion drops a new song, a dedicated dance trend is not far behind.
But that’s not what happened after the June release of her song “Thot S—.” Instead, Black creators on the app announced a kind of strike, saying they would abstain from creating a dance trend for others to co-opt.
The strike is at least the second time the Black users have held an on-app protest regarding their treatment on the platform, igniting an even larger discussion about ownership, compensation and equity within the digital economy. Black creators and creators of color say they are frustrated and fed up with being major contributors to not only the content and culture of a platform like TikTok but also a driving force behind the popularity of an app run by the $250 billion company ByteDance.
“African American youth have always been early adopters of different social platforms, if it’s Twitter, if it was Instagram. Certainly Snapchat, TikTok, Vine,” said S. Craig Watkins, director of the Institute for Media Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin. “A whole sort of long laundry list of platforms that Black users were some of the earliest adopters, some of the most inventive content creators, and yet have never been really adequately recognized or compensated for what they bring to those platforms,”