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When TikTok announced a $ 200 million creator fund to pay developers directly for their content, it should have been a reason for TikTok developers to celebrate. But just a few weeks after the fund was launched, many founders have already left.
Four founders who had left the fund all cited negative views as the reason for leaving. Nina Ward, who has 44,000 followers, left the fund after her posts rose from at least 1,000 views per video to a few hundred per video. Similarly, Amber, who has nearly 80,000 followers, saw her views go from tens of thousands to as low as thousands.
Some developers have accused TikTok of deliberately suppressing their content.
"I don't think they actually want to pay (creators)," said Cee, a creator who is currently considering leaving the fund. "They're taking away a lot of their views or at least suppressing their videos so they don't have to pay as much as they should be."
It's worth noting that other accounts saw little or no difference in viewership after joining. Several creators attributed the sudden change in views to increased competition rather than something intentional by TikTok.
"I think what (creators) are experiencing is an influx of people who say, 'Oh, this is money now, so I'm going to improve my content. I'll be posting more, ”said Jeff Couret, a TikTok developer who specializes in digital marketing.
A TikTok representative said the diminished views are purely coincidental. However, these aren't the first content suppression rumors, and the allegations are fueling increased suspicion between the creators of TikTok and the app itself.
Distrust of TikTok
To understand the fears surrounding the fund, you must first understand how the Creator Fund remunerates users and why this is complicated. The fund pays per view (TikTok didn't say how much), which frustrated some users as TikTok views are often more sporadic and inconsistent than on other platforms.
This is because TikTok's main interface is the For You page, which – if selected by the app's recommendation algorithm – will send your video to a larger audience beyond your followers. The algorithm behind the For You page is mysterious and addicting.
This is part of the magic of TikTok, and arguably one of the things that has drawn so many developers to the platform. You can only have 100 followers and still get millions of views. But it also means that an unknown algorithm can improve your content one day and not improve it the next.
"I think a lot of people are just tied to the algorithm that was so good at pushing people out," said Austin, a creator with 24,000 followers. The downside to this is that when your content no longer appears on the For You page, people are quick to blame TikTok and not their own content.
When the Creator Fund monetized Views, it was essentially monetizing an aspect of the app that is very difficult for Creators to understand or control.
This is not the first time developers have suspected TikTok of deliberately suppressing content. The app has been accused in the past of banning certain content, particularly recordings of protests against Black Lives Matter. The shadow prohibition refers to when a user's content is blocked or partially blocked by an online platform so that it is not obvious to the user that they are blocked. You can see this shadow ban fear when people try to spread information about the fund.
In order not to be censored, some covered their criticism of the Creator Fund with fake makeup videos. In these posts, the audio instructs the user to comment on the video, "as if it were a regular makeup tutorial". The voice-over then describes how the fund is reducing viewership and advises creators to leave.
One of the videos received over half a million views and the audio was used by 141 other accounts.
An inefficient way to make money
For many creators, leaving the fund was a breeze when they saw how much they were making.
"I only made $ 2 for the first few days, which was confusing as all of my videos were viewed 1,000+ times," said Kathy, a TikTok developer. "You are very confused about how many views actually make you a good amount of money."
TikTok hasn't specified exactly how much it pays per view, and many developers reflected Kathy's frustration at making so little despite thousands of views.
To make big bucks on TikTok – like the handful of developers who drew seven-figure salaries last year – you still have to leave the app. The Creator Fund's paychecks are largely negligible compared to what influencers can get from sponsored posts or branded businesses.
The TikTok Creator Fund was meant to be an important step for developers to monetize their content. Instead, the fund may have backfired and increased general distrust of the app.
Although TikTok has promised to address user concerns, it may be too late to win back developers who have already been abandoned.
"After seeing what it did to my account, it just wasn't worth it," said Ward. "I wanted to go and just have fun creating content for my followers."