Shadowbanning: TikTok’s downfall?

5 mins read

TikTok is one of the latest apps to break through the holy trinity social media market of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and has become a force in its own right. With 850 million downloads in 2020, it has quickly become a favourite, with younger generations in the U.K spending an average of just over an hour a day scrolling through the app. 

However, the app’s algorithm has started to show a darker side. Some of the app’s creators are finding they are receiving fewer views – and fewer followers – as a result of this algorithm.  phenomenon has been given a name, shadow banning, and could potentially be the downfall of the app’s popularity.

Brig recently sat down with one such creator to discuss the app’s supposed algorithm’s effect on her account. Jasmin, known as @freakbutchic1 on social media, first joined the app in January 2020 but began regularly uploading content in mid-February. Her first viral video was of her lip-syncing to a viral Yungblud sound where he sings about wanting to be a carrot. So Jasmin did her makeup as a carrot. Suddenly, she gained thousands of followers. She decided to continue the series as multiple other vegetables and even a pizza. Her content sets her apart from other creators, something she says has contributed to her success, allowing her to stand out amongst everyone else. Still, things changed around June and July of 2020.

Jasmin began noticing a vast difference between her follower account, which sits at around 88k at publishing. Her TikTok views went from consistently 10k to 100k views per video to an average of less than 8k every single time. 

‘I had just signed up for the creator fund after another of my videos had gone viral. There was no contact from TikTok before or after this point, but my views suddenly went downhill.’

Jasmin, @freakbutchic1

So far, there hasn’t been a more permanent ban on Jasmin’s account. Still, the makeup artist says she can physically see the change in her analytics, hinting at the shadow banning phenomenon: ‘I noticed that it just doesn’t add up, that there are that many people following me, but my views don’t even cover half of my follower count.’

There doesn’t seem to be anything that can be done about shadow banning. TikTok has not made any public announcements, and the lack of support and information for creators is next to none. There are theories about why shadow banning may be happening, such as swearing or nudity, but Jasmin says that wouldn’t be staying true to herself. She’s funny, she’s rude, and her humour appeals to her older audience, so why should she not use more ‘adult’ language? 

Other creators don’t seem to face the same issues, especially those with more significant followings. Noah Beck, one of the platforms biggest creators, regularly posts shirtless videos but has consistent viewing figures and totals at over 1.7B likes. 

The apparent discrimination against smaller creators can lead to feelings of burnout and loss of motivation. Jasmin had been planning to take her 15 minutes of fame and run with it as this type of content creation has been a life-long dream of hers. Instead, the creator fund gave her little to no pay-out and her following dwindled. There is no protection in place for these creators and her career has changed yet again. 

Jasmin is hopeful for the future though and refuses to let this dream of hers die. She wants to continue to stand out as putting a personal spin on trend is what can blow a creator up.

‘My fantasy is to be famous, to do makeup and I hope things will be better. It’s a choice and I am manifesting it.’

Jasmin, @freakbutchic1

Featured Image Credit: Jasmin, @freakbutchic1

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4th year English and Journalism student, passionate about intersectional feminism, Formula 1 and everything in between.

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