The new Social Media platform TikTok is gaining popularity and users. It has already been accused of ideologically targeting and permitting sexual harassment of minors.
The environment for short video clips currently known as TikTok, began in 2016 with the launch of a platform for the Chinese market called Douyin. In 2017, an environment called TikTok was launched. Both are created by ByteDance, a software company based in China.
Douyin was intended for the Chinese market and TikTok for overseas markets. In 2017, ByteDance bought Musical.ly, a Social Media platform and gained millions of users of this platform.
In the TikTok environment music background, users can create their own music videos, short clips, video greetings etc. Various users can create new and updated video clips on the same music background and associate them with each other. It is also very popular to use video effects provided by the environment in short videos. Challenges, competitions and networking are all a separate topic.
A giant concern, bringing together young internet users
The environment has about 550,000,000 active users and the app was downloaded more than 660 million times by the end of 2018. The number of users ranks 9th according to the size of the environment.
By the second half of 2019, TikTok users were in 155 countries and had been translated into 75 languages.
The platform is noted with the activity of its users. More than a billion videos are watched daily and users spend an average of 52 minutes per day in the environment. The percentage of active contributors is 55%.
By region, TikTok’s app downloads in India were the highest in 2018, reaching 240 million downloads. Second place was the USA with 200 million times.
Behind the activity of TikTok users lies their youth – 41% of users in the environment are aged between 16 and 24 and the share of users under 30 is as high as 66%.
Being an important channel increases the influence
Due to TikTok’s size, it is fighting to have a place in the TOP10 of Social Media environments; this also causes it to have a huge influence on society. TikTok is familiar with problems with other Social Media platforms.
Problems with the environment, its content and its users have already been numerous and are only amplified by a weak moderation system.
A number of problems have already emerged in sexual exploitation of minors and in reaching out to young people with sexually explicit content. There is also cyberbullying and other youth related concerns.
In April 2019, for example, a court in India ruled against the download of an app in the area because it allowed for the distribution of pornography, Internet bullying and easy access for internet perverts to victims on web servers. The environment later challenged the decision, stating that it had removed the inappropriate content and the court reopened access to the app awhile later.
The USA fined the environment $5.7 million USD because TikTok had collected personal information from users under the age of 13 without parental consent. It also obligated the environment to delete postings from all users under the age of 13.
A bigger notice and consequent problem arose with internet perverts, who had discovered the TikTok environment and its weaknesses and patterns of access to information about minors and their proximity (recommendation lists). To address this problem, users themselves created a network and a practice to expose the depraved harassers.
The problem with ideological influence activities
Young people are more susceptible to any form of influence activity and a worthwhile target group for ideological targeting, but TikTok is also an example of China’s interest in getting to the minds of young Internet users.
In the autumn of 2019, materials on how topics and materials related to the Chinese government, and more specifically Chinese foreign policy, were directed via the TikTok environment were revealed.
For example, an information leak revealed how moderators of the environment had been instructed to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or deny access to the Falun Gong religious group material.
Content that is objectionable to the Chinese government is deleted and will be expelled from the environment or the dissemination of less sensitive material will be prevented from reaching a wider range of users. The posting individuals themselves do not realize that their material has not reached other users.
Such techniques effectively guide the nature of content and affect young people’s worldviews.
TikTok is also rising as a trend among young people in Estonia, which makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on what is going on there. The influence of the Chinese government on Estonian youth is not much of a threat but the low level of moderation and the lack of adult presence gives rise to inappropriate developments.
Photos: Screenshots from the tiktok.com environment