'We Were Made to Look Like Fools': TikTok Competitor Triller Reportedly Skipped Out On Paying Black Creators
Creators said they went months without pay, per a report in The Washington Post.
TikTok rival Triller did not pay Black creators in a timely manner (or at all, in some cases) despite aggressive wooing and contractual wage agreements — leaving the content mavens in the breach, according to a Washington Post investigation published Wednesday.
"This program was meant to make us financially free and to empower Black people," said David Warren, one of the creators who participated in Triller's program. "They told us that so much was going to happen for us… We were made to look like fools," he added.
Content creators told WaPo that they faced financial issues including falling behind on bills and having to move apartments while waiting for the company to pay them for content created.
The outlet said it spoke with "more than two dozen creators, talent managers and former company staff," many of whom were not named.
(WaPo added that while it reported this story and as it went to press, creators began to receive some payments as well as requests to sign confidentiality agreements.)
According to the report, Triller was founded in 2015 as a video editing app. It became more visible as an alternative to TikTok after privacy issues came up and quickly set its sights on the popular app as a major rival.
Case in point: In August 2020, Triller put out a press release noting its app download spot "ranks Triller ahead of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat and every other app," per Refinery 29, and continued with criticism of TikTok specifically.
Then, as WaPo posits, Triller saw an opening of sorts: Black creators' frustrations with TikTok.
Those include not getting credit or compensation for viral dance trends and being sidelined by the algorithm or content moderation policies, plus a poorly-run Black History Month event in February, per NBC News.
Triller announced a program in November 2021 to give 300 black creators $2,000 a month in cash and $2,000 a month in company equity, according to WaPo.
The stock was a major reason the Collab Crib, a Black influencer house in Atlanta, signed a sponsorship deal with Triller, cofounder Keith Dorsey told the outlet.
It "wasn't just the money," Dorsey told WaPo. "To say, I have stock in this company, I'm invested in this company from a corporate level, that's a game changer."
But Triller didn't make good on its promises, creators told the Washington Post.
Triller CEO Mahi de Silva told WaPo it "has met its financial commitments to the creators in this program and will continue to do so."
"We specifically take pride in our role in creating a platform that celebrates Black creator content," de Silva added to the outlet. "No other medium has done as much as Triller has for this often overlooked and underrepresented part of the creator economy."
The company reiterated similar points in a statement to Entrepreneur. It said all of the program's participants "been paid fully" and that the program "lifts the voices of this vibrant community while ensuring that creators are fairly compensated."
Triller added that it was "dissapointed" at "recent inaccurate, misleading and
By July, Warren said he had not gotten paid for "months" of work for Triller.
He had to go into his savings, move out of his one-bedroom apartment into one with a roommate, is behind on his phone and car bill, and ended up taking a full-time security guard job, he told WaPo.
Triller's contracts with creators were also intense, requiring eight Triller videos a month, cross-posting to other platforms, and careful documentation of each post or story, the story added.
And there was not a lot of wiggle room, per the investigation.
Another creator, Niccolo Cagnolatti, told WaPo he asked for an extension on an Instagram post because he had just posted about a GoFundMe for his cousin's funeral and didn't want to promote Triller on his account right away.
Triller said he had to do it or be in jeopardy of getting kicked out of the program, the WaPo reported.
In May, per emails reviewed by the WaPo, the company claimed it couldn't pay out contracts because it was going public — which it plans to do by the fall.
"They were super pushy about us and our deliverables, but when it came time for payment, they passed the deadline and breached their own contract. The hypocrisy," William Horne, another content creator, told WaPo.
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