TikTok faces a wave of creator frustration and content moderation issues

The news: TikTok may be driving trends across social media and digital video, but a new lawsuit against the platform and complaints from creators about reliability show that it isn’t free from the brand safety issues that plague other social platforms.

  • Two former content moderators are seeking class action status for a lawsuit that alleges that TikTok didn’t provide adequate support for employees who gatekeep “unfiltered, disgusting, and offensive content uploaded to the App,” per TechCrunch.
  • Users on the platform are complaining about a glitch that makes TikTok’s $200 million “Creator Fund” inaccessible to qualified accounts, per AdAge.

TikTok’s upsetting content problem: Ever since Instagram’s leaked report on teen mental health, platforms have raced to signal that they’re taking steps to censor harmful content. But the lawsuit against TikTok may be a sign that more undesirable content is making it through than platforms would like.

  • In November, TikTok released a report on teen safety and introduced several features that filtered out content about self harm and eating disorders, and even included mental health resources in search results for sensitive topics.
  • But some disturbing content still makes it through those filters—so much so that TikTok has contracted tech firms to seek out and remove videos that break the rules of the platform.
  • Sensitive content has become an even pricklier topic for social media since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has flooded platforms with violent combat footage. The issue isn’t unique to TikTok, but increased discussion about safety and harmful content could make brands nervous about their ads showing up next to problematic footage.

Creators’ growing frustration: The recent complaints about the accessibility of TikTok’s creator fund, which requires that accounts have over 10,000 followers, are not the first levied against the platform.

  • Creators have been complaining about the fund since it launched for paying less than other platforms and prioritizing payments to influencers with pre-established large followings.
  • Micro-influencers have had trouble with (or outright been unable to) applying due to a bug that’s been present since February. That’s bad news for TikTok’s social commerce plans, since micro-influencers are poised to make up a larger share of brand marketing on social media platforms due to their more niche content focuses and loyal audiences.

The takeaway: TikTok will remain influential despite these issues because of its size and access to Gen Z consumers, but investing in moderation and appeasing smaller creators will still be important to achieving its long-term goals.