Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Are Black Creators Really on ‘Strike’ From TikTok?

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Black creators’ concerns run deeper than simply obtaining dance credits or more brand deals. “We are being exploited, and that’s the core issue Black folks have always had in terms of labor,” Mr. Louis said. “These millions of likes, that should all translate to something. How do we get real money, power and proper compensation we deserve?”

According to Li Jin, the founder of Atelier, a venture firm that invests in the creator economy, these tensions stem from systemic inequalities in the online creator industry. “The issue here is ownership,” she said. “The worker class is disenfranchised and does not have ownership over the means of creation and distribution.”

More creators, especially those from marginalized groups, are looking at the skyrocketing valuations of technology companies and reconsidering their relationships with certain platforms.

“People realize these tech companies are worth so much, they’re valued so highly, and the tech C.E.O.s and employees are gaining so much wealth,” Ms. Jin said. “But the platform participants, the creators, have been left out of this equation. There’s an undertone of economic inequality, which broadly is the issue of our time.”

“My hope is that we realize this is an entire class of work that didn’t previously exist,” she added. “If we don’t offer this class of workers protections and rights, they’re going to become increasingly disenfranchised.”

Kaelyn Kastle, 24, a Black content creator and member of the Collab Crib, said she wasn’t participating in the strike, but supports what it represents. “The strike is to send a message. The business models of these apps, they have us out here overworking and being underpaid,” she said. “We’re working long hours but at the end of the day we’re still making little to nothing, and we Black creators are making even less.”

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