TikTok, Plagiarism, and the Politics of Citation

Faithe J Day
7 min readJul 4, 2021
Photo created by author with Canva.

TikTok is a fascinating place for a researcher and writer. Everyday I learn something new about the app, and it brings up questions that are not only relevant to the app itself, but to the norms of information sharing and content creation at this moment in time. Especially in light of the recent strike of Black content creators on the beloved clock app, I have been thinking a lot about the politics of citation on TikTok and what it means to cite correctly and with care by utilizing the affordances of the TikTok platform.

Background on the #BlackTikTokStrike

Photo courtesy of Canva.

For many Black content creators, TikTok and other social media platforms are a place for cultural expression and community building. However, unlike the in-person creation of community and camaraderie which tends to be more insular and interpersonal, any person can exist within a community online. In a recent blog post I discussed how the openness of the online community has resulted in the “infiltration and surveillance of Black communities both online and offline” by those who exist both within and outside of it.

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Specifically, cultural appropriation and the theft of Black creativity has become a hallmark of the digital era and it is quite common to hear or read stories of brands, influencers, and even publications profiting from Black content and culture. In the blog, I specifically thought about how this theft is not only a hallmark of the digital era, but something that we can trace back to slavery and the pre-colonial eras.

For Black TikTok creators, we generally see this concern when it comes to TikTok dances and trends. Especially as most Black creators do not have the same amount of followers as the most popular TikTok creators, it is easy for more popular creators to utilize the content of others in order to popularize a dance or trend without crediting the person who actually created it. This topic is currently explored in the recent media coverage of TikTok Houses like the Collab Crib and this also speaks to a quirk of the TikTok…

Faithe J Day

Writer, Creator, and Educator. Millennial and Internet Expert. Top Writer in Social Media, Culture, Television, and Feminism. Learn more at https://fjday.com