Commentary

Instagram Aims To Credit Black Creators

Racism in the influencer economy is as blatant as it is in any industry. But due to its recent and massive growth, the pay gap between white creators and creators of color has only made headlines over the past year.

A December report from MSL U.S., in partnership with The Influencer League, quantified this blatant inequity. The study found that twice as many white influencers are raking in $100,000 or more annually, compared to Black creators making similar content for audiences of a similar size.

The pay gap between both groups was 29%.

And nearly half of Black influencers reported that their race is what contributed to an offer below market value. Furthermore -- and this should come as no surprise -- the majority (59%) of Black influencers (and 49% of BIPOC influencers) reported feeling negatively impacted financially when posting about issues of race, compared to just 14% of white influencers.

So, not only are influencers of color being undervalued on the worth of their content, but also ignored or ridiculed when speaking against the system that is paying them less.

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The issue of appropriation has also made headlines, most notably over viral TikTok dances, many of which are created by Black influencers who rarely get the monetary credit they deserve.

Think of the well-known “Renegade” dance, created by 14-year-old TikToker Jalaiah Harmon. After white TikTok dancers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae (who performed the dance, among other dances made by Black influencers, on “The Tonight Show”) gained attention for their versions of the Renegade, celebrities like Lizzo and A-Rod adopted their own renditions.

All the while, as D’Amelia and Rae both made millions in 2020 from their appropriated dances, Harmon made $38,000 from TikTok that year, and was mostly forgotten.

“I was excited and frustrated because they weren’t tagging me or giving me credit,” Harmon tells Teen Vogue. Harmon left comments on Instagram and TikTok for months, asking users to recognize her as the original creator, but this strategy didn’t work.

That same year, a data analyst and engineer at Instagram -- Alexis Michelle Adjei and Cameryn Boyd, respectively --  started creating a special tag that would highlight Black influencers like Harmon, who are often forgotten when their product goes viral.

This past Monday -- two years later -- Instagram announced the launch of Adjei’s and Boyd’s enhanced tag meant to ensure professional accounts and influencers receive credit for starting trends.

Now, the contributions made by makeup artists, songwriters, or other significant collaborators on a post will be more visible in the specific post. Additionally, Adjei and Boyd say that the reach of credited creators should continue to grow naturally with the current algorithm.

“They weren’t getting that attribution,” Boyd tells NBC.  “The hope is that they will now get the credit and that piece of content where their contribution can be traced back to their accounts, so that people have the opportunity to follow them and they can grow their influence.”

Adjei tells NBC that the need for a formal credit was apparent. It just took the right set of eyes at Meta, Instagram’s parent company, to see it.

It will be interesting to see whether or not these tags make a difference in attribution for Black creators. Boyd and Adjei, alongside quantifiable data, have shown that this issue won’t work itself out without some changes.  It’s time other social networks ensure the well-being of underrepresented creators on their platforms.

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