TikTok has managed to attract many influencers, especially thanks to its advanced video editing possibilities, creative filters and algorithmic power. (Photo: 123RF)
PARIS — Is the pinnacle of mobile entertainment a tool or two for espionage and propaganda in the service of Beijing? The TikTok phenomenon made the world of social networks obsolete in a few years, but today the app remains in the eyes of many states that want to control its influence.
The US is now trying to force its Chinese parent, Byte Dance, to part with its most valuable asset.
TikTok was first banned in India in 2020 after the country’s deadly border clashes with China.
That same year, the application was also threatened with a US ban by Donald Trump, who accused him of spying for China.
After an article by the site BuzzFeed, the social network had to admit that China-based employees had access to data related to American users, but always denied passing it to the Chinese Communist Party.
In an effort to ensure data security, the company promises to store US and European users in their territories through local partners.
But the US federal government and the European Commission banned their employees from downloading and using TikTok on their work devices in 2023.
Washington is now pushing for a broader ban, echoing threats made by Donald Trump three years ago.
One billion users
None of these moves have slowed down TikTok’s meteoric rise so far.
The platform has more than a billion active users worldwide, including 125 million in the European Union.
According to We Are Social’s latest report on digital evolution, published in January, it ranks sixth among the most popular social platforms.
It also shows a strong increase, especially among younger people.
After all, TikTok surpasses all its competitors in its ability to attract attention. In 2023, Android users spent an average of 23 hours and 28 minutes using it every month.
Youtube or Meta (Facebook, Instagram) have tried to follow the format of its ultra-short videos, which scroll continuously, without success so far.
An opaque algorithm
TikTok has managed to attract many influencers, especially thanks to its advanced video editing possibilities, creative filters and algorithmic power, the ability to quickly uncover new stars.
These ticktokers (among them Coffee Lame, Charlie D’Amelio or Bella Porch are well known) have attracted many brands that encourage users to issue “challenges”.
But the TikTok algorithm is completely opaque.
In January, Forbes magazine also revealed that TikTok and Bytedance employees regularly used a button to increase the number of views of certain content.
According to TikTok, which recently announced a feature that detects why one video is being shown over another, manual advertising affects only a small portion of recommendations.
The app, like other social networks, faces the challenge of content moderation. While he has to ban nudity, he is constantly accused of hosting many inappropriate videos, risky challenges and images with sexual connotations.
In October 2022, as Numerama found, posting photos of penises was a “trend”.
According to the media, several children also died trying to replicate another incarnation of the editorial game called the “Blackout Challenge”.
Finally, according to NewsGuard in September 2022, 20% of TikTok videos on current topics (Russian invasion of Ukraine, school shootings in the US, Covid vaccines) are false or misleading.
Among more than a dozen fact-checking agencies in several countries in Asia and Oceania, Europe, the Middle East and Spanish-speaking Latin America, AFP is paid by TikTok to verify videos that contain false information. AFP groups will be removed by Tiktok if their information is proven to be false.
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