A billion users, stars and controversies: 5 things to know about TikTok

The pinnacle of mobile entertainment or a tool of espionage and propaganda in the service of Beijing? The TikTok phenomenon has overtaken the world of social networks in a few years, but many authorities now want to reduce its influence.

• Read more: The European Commission has banned TikTok from its employees’ work devices

• Read more: How does China spy on the US?

With more than a billion active users worldwide, TikTok, owned by Chinese company Byte Dance, is the 6th most used social platform, according to We Are Social’s latest digital evolution report published in January.

The use of mostly dance or musical clips lags far behind the three social platforms Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, more than 2 billion users) or YouTube (2.5 billion), but it has shown a strong increase over the years. younger According to Wallaroo Agency, 32.5% of users are between 10 and 19 years old.

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.

The company says it has around 125 million active users in the EU. As such, it will be subject to the new EU Digital Services Regulation.

TikTok’s audience success can also be seen in its ad revenue. These reach 11 billion dollars in 2022, multiplied by 3 in one year, and threaten to surpass YouTube (Google) and Meta in a few years.

As a result, TikTok’s competitors quickly began to copy its features, especially short videos in a vertical format scrolling in a continuous stream. Competition continues today over the issue of revenue sharing to attract the best creatives.

TikTok is one of the Chinese apps banned in India since 2020 after the deadly border clashes between the two countries. New Delhi justified its decision by defending its sovereignty.

That same year, the application was threatened with a US ban by Donald Trump, who accused him of spying for China.

Under pressure, the company announced in June 2022 that it would store all of its US users’ data on Oracle Group’s servers in the US, although it could not be fully guaranteed.

As an article on the site BuzzFeed pointed out, the social network had to confirm that employees based in China had access to data related to American users of the site, but did not pass this information to the Chinese Communist Party.

A law signed by President Joe Biden in early January now bans the download and use of TikTok on the devices of US federal government officials.

On Thursday, the European Commission asked its employees to uninstall the app from their professional devices to “protect the company’s data”.

One of TikTok’s strengths is attracting many content creators and influencers, enamored by its advanced possibilities of video editing, creative filters, and an algorithm capable of quickly uncovering new stars.

These Tiktokers (Kaby Lame, Charli d’Amelio or Bella Poarch, previously unknown) have attracted many brands and encouraged them to offer “challenges” that users can replicate endlessly.

But TikTok’s algorithm remains completely opaque and is accused of choosing and locking down videos too quickly to suit users’ preferences and preferences.

In January, Forbes magazine also revealed that TikTok and Bytedance employees regularly used the manual button to increase the number of views on 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 fraction of recommended videos.

The app, like other social networks, faces the challenge of content moderation. Although nudity should be banned, she continues to be accused of hosting numerous misinformation videos, risky challenges and pornographic images.

In October 2022, as Numerama found, TikTok was “trending” to post penis photos.

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, 20% of TikTok videos on current topics (Russian invasion of Ukraine, school shootings in the US, Covid vaccines) are false or misleading.

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