In the Summer of 2021 there was a viral news story about Black TikTok creators going on strike because of the lack of credit being given to their work, and white creators blatantly ripping off their artistry and getting all the attention. The story had been brewing for quite some time, according to NPR and other outlets, but it finally came to mainstream attention, and for good reason. So why have Black creators had to fight that much harder to get the credit they deserve? And how many more social media and pop culture trends have been created by artists of color who don’t get enough attention?
One woman who has some expert insight into this is Bridget Todd, host of the iHeartRadio technology and culture podcast ‘There are No Girls on the Internet‘ which just released Season 3.
“Marginalized voices have always been at the forefront of the internet, yet our stories often go overlooked,” says the description of the podcast series.
Bridget Todd chronicles the experiences of Black creatives online, and the ways marginalized voices have shaped the internet from the very beginning.
Along with her popular podcast, Bridget is also a tech accountability expert, who shared some really interesting thoughts with us about the importance of protecting your identity and content online, why Black creatives have had to work harder to get the credit they deserve, and how major pop culture stories like the Depp/Heard case impact our everyday lives more than we think.
But first, take a listen to one of the latest episodes:
Can you tell us how the idea for ‘There Are No Girls on the Internet’ podcast came about, and what the significance of the title is?
In addition to being a podcaster, I have a full time job in the tech space that involves meeting with leadership at big social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit to advocate for changes that will make the internet safer and more inclusive. Those meetings are always full of women, people of color, queer folks and other voices who are traditionally marginalized. However, that isn’t the story you see told most often. Typically, the people who are taking up the most space in conversations around tech and how it impacts our lives are white, straight men. That didn’t align at all with my own experience in tech.
The idea for There Are No Girls on the Internet was to build a platform that would reflect what I knew to be the truth about technology: that women, people of color, trans folks, queer folks and other historically underrepresented identities are what makes the internet great and always have been. If that story isn’t often told, it’s not because we’re not there, it’s because we’ve been overlooked, erased, or ignored.
“There Are No Girls on the Internet” is an informal “rule” of being online that has two meanings. Either that there aren’t actually any women online and anyone who says they are a woman is just pretending, or that if there are women online, their experience is the same that everyone else is having online. Both of these ideas are untrue. Women, people of color, trans folks, and queer folks and other marginalized identities were foundational to the internet since the very beginning. So I picked the name “There Are No Girls on the Internet” to poke fun at that notion that we don’t show up online.
You are passionate about elevating Black creatives who are defining social media trends. Can you talk about why this is something more people need to know about in the tech space especially?
The internet, particularly social media platforms as we know them, would not exist without Black people, full stop. It is Black brilliance, labor, and creativity that fuels social media– not just in dances and memes–but we are also the ones who are doing the work of making platforms safer, and more inclusive for everyone. This work is often unpaid and dangerous. It is important for folks in tech to understand how much we contribute to the internet and meaningfully center our voices in conversations about it.
A lot of people think of social media and the digital media world as the “wild wild west” when it comes to creating content and owning your ideas. How do you suggest people navigate this area?
There are things individual creators can do to protect themselves, like trademarking ideas you come up with so that if they go viral, they can still be traced back to you as the originator. However, these avenues are not always accessible for everyone and individual creators should not have to do so much to secure ownership over ideas they started. It is the responsibility of people and institutions with power, from decision makers at platforms to producers at late night TV shows who book viral social media stars, to make sure they are creating the conditions for original creators to get the amplification and compensation they deserve.
Storytelling is a powerful way to create change, and this is one of the core aspects of your podcast. What do you hope listeners will be inspired by when they download an episode?
I hope listeners will be as inspired by the stories of brilliant Black women, queer folks, trans folks, and other people who, despite being told in a thousand different ways that technology isn’t a space for them, still show up and create change online every day.
What are some major recent tech and pop culture stories that have interested you?
Beyonce’s new single has roots in house music, which is an offshoot of electronic music. It sparked a conversation about how Black queer people were the originators of house music and how Beyonce is paying tribute to a genre that is uniquely ours, even though we don’t always get credit for starting it.
From the Depp/Heard case to the Uvalde school shooting, technology clearly infiltrates so many different areas of public life. What are some key things about tech that we should be aware of more?
The way that tech impacts all of lives. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “techie”. Technology impacts so much of what you do every single day. Whether it’s how your groceries are delivered, how and who you vote in elections, to whether or not you are surveilled by police. Tech would be nothing without us, regular consumers, so the people and institutions who build them should be accountable to us. Even if you aren’t an engineer, you have a right to take up space in conversations around tech.
Why has there been such an exclusion of creators of color, or people of color in general in dominant tech spaces? And what are some of the most exciting trends that are changing this?
There is a pervasive attitude that whatever people of color create is “for everyone” on the internet. So we should not expect to be compensated and ever attributed to things we create online, even as other people build entire lucrative platforms off of our creations. Younger people are pushing back against this.
Recently, Black dancers on TikTok held a TikTok strike, refusing to come up with a dance to accompany a Meg the Stallion single. The music industry relies on Black creators to promote new songs through dances on social media, but the people whose creativity is propping up the industry are often not compensated. I am glad young people are recognizing that they have power and flexing that power to create change.
What are some key ways women, women of color especially, and other marginalized folks can protect themselves digitally?
Use a service like Tweet Delete to regularly delete your tweets. Use Delete Me to make sure your personal information like your address or phone number are not online (you’d be surprised!) Be careful about what you share online. And most importantly, be careful about who you share your time, space, and energy with online. Not everyone is worth it.
Although it is only June, what has been the biggest story infiltrating social media this year so far that has brought you joy?
If you want to learn more about the importance of protecting your creativity on social media, and how technology impacts every aspect of our lives, subscribe and listen to ‘There are No Girls on the Internet’ hosted by Bridget Todd by clicking HERE.