Tiktok short video sharing social networking app

  • History of TikTok mobile app and video sharing platform



    About TikTok:

    TikTok is a mobile application of video sharing and social networking launched in September 2016. It is developed by the Chinese company ByteDance as the counterpart of the Douyin application for the non-Chinese market. Its logo evokes a musical note.

    TikTok logo.svg

    TikTok and ByteDance:

    ByteDance, a digital technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming and headquartered in Beijing, launched in September 2016. Douyin, a mobile application for sharing short videos for the Chinese market. In 2017, ByteDance launched TikTok, the version of Douyin for markets outside of China. The two applications are very similar but run on different servers and have different content, in order to meet the requirements of Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China and the Great Firewall. Thus, TikTok is not accessible in China, while Douyin is only present on Chinese app stores.

    ByteDance

    The app allows users to create short videos with music, ranging from 3 to 60 seconds. TikTok is becoming the leading service of its kind in Asia, and the app is considered the fastest growing of all countries. It is the clip sharing app that brings together the largest community. In June 2018, TikTok reached 150 million daily active users. During the first quarter of 2018, it was the leading mobile application by number of downloads (45.8 million according to estimates).

    The November 9, 2017, ByteDance acquired competing Chinese video platform Musical.ly for nearly $ 12 billion. On Aug 2, 2018, the company is merged the two applications, while retaining the name TikTok. This merger, especially the name TikTok and the advertising campaigns on YouTube and Snapchat, are criticized by users.

    In February 2019, TikTok is sentenced in the United States to a record fine of $ 5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The platform is found guilty of illegally collecting and leaving public data from children under 13. This penalty pushes the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) in the UK to investigate child protection on the platform.

    TikTok Controversy:

    During 2019, following its regulatory concerns and controversies over its links with the Chinese state, TikTok hired staff to lobby in the United States as well as in Europe, where the action is seen as proactive, as the company has not had significant problems. ByteDance is thus one of the few Chinese internet companies to lobby on the continent. For an expert lobbying of the European Union, it also represents a shift in China's lobbying strategy, through both private companies and the government, and greater use of Western methods.

    By end of 2019, the application has more than one billion users - becoming the most downloaded in the world smartphone particularly among teenagers, and is the only social network as popular in the East and the 'West. In January 2020, the application reached eight hundred million active users per month, a figure which approached one billion at the end of April 2020. The periods of confinement observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, at the beginning of the year 2020 in almost every country in the world is seen as favouring this leap. TikTok would thus equal Instagram, which had reached one billion active users per month according to its latest figures from June 2018.

    TikTok American CEO:

    In May 2020 TikTok appointed American CEO Kevin Mayer, then director of the video on demand at Disney. Mayer is also taking on the role of Director of Operations for ByteDance. This recruitment is described as strategic, aimed at winning the confidence of the United States in a context where the application is criticized by the authorities who suspect it of being a threat to national security.

    Ban in India:

    In June 2020, the app was placed on a list of 59 Chinese apps banned in India, its largest market with 158 million users, shortly after a deadly clash between the armies of the two countries on their border. The decision is taken to ensure “the security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”, the application being accused of “stealing and smuggling” the data of Indian Internet users on servers located outside the territory.

    Following the ban on the application in India and facing the possibility of a ban in the United States, the management of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance are considering the creation of a head office outside of China for the company, and a dedicated board of directors which allows it more independence vis-à-vis ByteDance.

    After the introduction of a national security law in Hong Kon , ByteDance withdraws access to TikTok for the territory, citing “recent events”, while leaving the Chinese version of the Douyin application accessible.

    Global presense:

    The app has offices around the world, including Los Angeles , New York , London , Paris , Berlin , Dubai , Bombay , Singapore , Jakarta , Seoul , and Tokyo. In order to consolidate its growth, it would use “aggressive” methods to attract staff from large Internet companies like Google and Facebook, including many high-ranking people, and would offer big salaries. In July 2020, its parent company ByteDance employed 60,000 people, and declared in March 2020 that it wanted to reach 100,000 employees by the end of the year. In the same period, the number of employees TikTok visible on the professional social network LinkedIn was over 4600.

    On August 6, 2020, TikTok announced the opening of its first European data center, in Ireland, at a total cost of 420 million euros.

    On August 27, the American Kevin Mayer, who took office as CEO of TikTok and COO of ByteDance in May 2020, announced his resignation, citing a change in the political context. This decision is described as a blow to TikTok.

    Latest news about ban of TikTok in United States:

    Following the US government's decision to ban the app in the US if it has not found a US buyer by September 15, Microsoft initiates talks with ByteDance to take over US, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian markets of platform. In September 2020, Microsoft's offer was refused by ByteDance, in favor of Oracle's offer, which was selected by taking a stake in Tiktok's American operations and by serving as technical intermediaries and management trusts user data. This agreement was rejected on September 18 by the US government, which banned downloading of the application in the United States. The government at the same time, blocks the WeChat application and announces the blocking of Tiktok in the United States by November 12, 2020. On September 20, the US government announced its approval of the agreement with Oracle as well as Walmart and the postponement of the ban on downloading Tiktok until September 27, 2020.

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  • TikTok: Contents, Business Model, Vulnerabilities and investigations

    Contents of TikTok:

    In the US, doctors use the TikTok platform to inform adolescents about health and fight against rumours and misinformation on controversial topics such as immunization and reproductive health of women, sometimes meeting a great success.

    TikTok logo.svg

    During the Covid-19 pandemic in India, a large number of TikTok videos denying the dangerousness of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus for Muslims and calling for the refusal of health measures such as wearing a mask are identified. This prompts the Ministry of Information Technology to ask TikTok to remove such information and identify the authors, also addressed to Facebook where similar content circulates. TikTok responds by saying that it is working actively with the government to fight against disinformation, while promoting “credible” content on Covid-19 on its platform. In July 2020, TikTok announced that it had deleted 29,000 videos containing "false information" on Covid-19 in Europe, including 3,000 whose targeted content belonged to the medical field. In order to inform its users about the pandemic, the application displays a banner giving access to information.

    In May 2020, the French government announced a partnership with the platform to disseminate prevention and information messages as part of a general campaign against violence against children.

    In June 2020, the platform announced that it had signed the European Union Code of Good Practice on Hate Speech and Disinformation

    Business model of TikTok:

    If Douyin has a buy button and generates a lot of income through online commerce, this is not the case with TikTok, which in 2019 was looking for a business model. The online store is testing partnerships with clothing brands Uniqlo and Hollister. At the end of 2019, the platform decided to turn to advertising for its market, offering several advertising formats already offered elsewhere by the platform. Advertisers, like the candy brand Haribo, also pose challenges of the type that are ubiquitous on the platform, recruiting influencers for this purpose. In 2020, the platform begins to introduce online commerce directly into the app with a “shop now” button.

    In July 2020, TikTok announced a content creator compensation program called the “Creator Fund” with a planned budget of $ 200 million. The program would be reserved for major creators with a minimum number of subscribers and videos published. This selection mechanism aims in particular to avoid remunerating controversial creators, as was the case for YouTube, thus limiting the risks of bad publicity for the platform. Faced with the success of TikTok, Facebook is offering paid partnerships to TikTok influencers to migrate to the new Reels feature of its Instagram platform, where they are called upon to publish exclusive content 

    Platform vulnerabilities

    In January 2020 the company cybersecurity Check Point reveals several serious security vulnerabilities in the application, which allow partial remote control application through the sending of a false SMS, leaving exposed personal data. In particular, they are successful in posting and deleting videos, making a private video public, approving a subscription request, and retrieving private information such as email or user “wallet” content. The flaws were corrected in December by TikTok, Check Point having warned platform.

    In April 2020 two researchers criticize the application for its use of the protocol HTTP without encryption rather than the more secure protocol HTTPS in its content delivery network (CDN). This choice improves the performance of data transfer, but would endanger the privacy and security of users. An attack called the interceptor (or man in the middle) is therefore possible, in which an interceptor could notably obtain personal data on the user's activity such as the videos viewed, and have a fake video viewed on a real account to users connected through the same router, which could be used for disinformation purposes. The attack could be carried out by public wifi network managers, VPN operators, internet service providers, or government agencies (especially intelligence). By creating a pirate server, the authors substituted fake videos for some users on the accounts of the WHO, the Red Cross and the official TikTok account. They recommend the implementation of HTTPS, which is the standard in iOS and Android, insisting that TikTok is one of the most used applications in the world and that the use of HTTP should be an exception.

    Legal actions and regulatory investigations on TikTok

    Prohibitions

    Australia

    In January 2020, following bans for American soldiers to use TikTok, the Australian Ministry of Defence indicated that the application was not allowed on its work phones, without giving a reason. The department had previously banned the Chinese messaging app WeChat, and in 2018 the Australian government banned the use of devices from Chinese manufacturer Huawei in its 5G telephony infrastructure for national security reasons.

    United States

    In December 2019, the US Naval Forces, then the Army, ordered their soldiers to uninstall the Chinese application from military smartphones for cybersecurity reasons. The Army leaves them free to use the app on their private phones, but warns them against unsolicited messages and inquiries. The armies are then followed by other federal administrations of the country linked in particular to diplomacy and security. The Democratic Party recommends that its officials and campaign teams do not install TikTok and delete their account and the app if they do. In July 2020, he clarifies his instructions for personal phones and recommends installing the application on a separate phone if the team is campaigning through the platform. The Republican Party asserts that such a recommendation has existed for a long time within it . At the end of July, Joe Biden's presidential campaign team banned its members from using the app on their private and work phones, citing security reasons.

    In August 2020, President Donald Trump announced the upcoming ban on TikTok in the United States, citing risks of espionage. Microsoft makes a proposal to the president to buy the American branch of TikTok. On August 22, 2020, TikTok announces its intention to file a complaint against the United States government, in order to challenge the executive order signed by Trump.

    India

    In April 2019The Madras High Court asking the government to temporarily prohibit the application, accused of "promoting pornography" and show the "inappropriate content", also noting that children who use the application would be exposed to sexual predators. The Court also asks the media not to broadcast videos from the platform. The Supreme Court refused to stay the order, and the Ministry of Information Technology asked Google and Apple, which run to withdraw their TikTok application store Google Play and App Store. TikTok issues a statement claiming that this ban harms "freedom of speech" and laments that it or its parent company ByteDance was not viewed, and claims to have removed around 6 million controversial videos. A few days later, following a request by ByteDance to the Supreme Court, the High Court of Madras annuls the provisional ban, on the condition that pornographic videos are no longer added. This ban could have cost up to 15 million users to the application, then growing in the country.

    In June 2020, the government listed TikTok, whose 120 million Indian users represent the largest market for the application, on a list of 59 Chinese applications (including the game Clash of Kings, and social networks WeChat. and Weibo) prohibited. The platform is accused of "stealing and smuggling" the data of Indian Internet users on servers located outside the territory. The Ministry of Information Technology says the decision aims to ensure "the security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace." TikTok India reacts by denying having communicated information about its users. The move comes amid military tensions between India and China, two weeks after a deadly clash between the armies of the two countries in a disputed region of the Himalayas.

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    • TikTok: Controversies, censorship, propaganda, privacy, security issues



      Controversies surrounding TikTok:

      Censorship and propaganda by TikTok

      General potential

      Researchers are concerned about the potential, they say, very strong, of the application in the global information war, not least because it could apply the Chinese government's censorship methods to an international audience and shape their understanding of current affairs. These concerns are reinforced by the fact that TikTok provides little information on the content it is removing and the independence it claims to have vis-à-vis Chinese censors. Researchers note that Douyin, only accessible in China, is subject to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) vision on appropriate content and sources, and must abide by censorship rules as well as the Great Firewall of China. Douyin has thus adopted a broad definition of undesirable content, notably prohibiting all those deemed “inconvenient”. According to Matt Schrader, China specialist for the US lobby group Alliance for Securing Democracy, all content that contravenes the official CCP line on Douyin, including the imprisonment of Uyghurs, bribery of high-ranking members of the CCP or videos of protesters in Hong Kong, are quickly withdrawn. Douyin deleted Chinese singer Liu Keqing's account, known for his strong physical resemblance to President Xi Jinping, and whose name and image were used to talk about President Xi bypassing censorship.

      TikTok logo.svg

      In terms of propaganda, researchers point to the CCP's use of Douyin. For a specialist in the Chinese digital industry, Douyin's generally light and fun content helps to convey the nationalist propaganda messages approved by the Chinese authorities to a young population who is less inclined to consult mainstream media. For a specialist marketing on TikTok, the platform has a massive potential to change the perceptions of the international public, this being facilitated by the fact that most users are young and relatively easy to influence. Researchers also note that TikTok could be used for online disinformation campaigns abroad, as the Chinese authorities have already done on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, by creating fake accounts to denigrate the Hong Kong protesters.

      Charges and Practices - TikTok

      According to Belinda Barnet, media specialist at the Swinburne University of Technology, there is "no doubt" that TikTok and Douyin contribute to misinformation, both platforms ' practicing censorship and disinformation campaigns to disrupt and guiding public debate ”.

      Repression of Uyghurs - TikTok

      The subject of the repression of Uyghurs in China is censored or masked on Douyin, leading to the publication of videos that attempt to creatively circumvent this censorship. In November 2019, a video in this style posted by an American teenager on TikTok goes viral , before one of her other accounts, then her phone, is blocked on the platform. Asked by the BBC, TikTok claims not to moderate content based on political sensitivities, and to have made these blocks because of another video showing Osama Bin Laden, which violated its content policy. TikTok then issues a press release on Case, mentioning the blocking of the account and the phone, as well as a brief withdrawal of the video due to an "error" by one of its moderators and then cancelled by a superior. TikTok apologizes for momentarily removing the video and unlocks the teenager's phone in violation of its policy, saying the previous (and satirical) video showing Osama bin Laden was obviously not bad intentional. The platform claims that videos on the situation of Uyghurs in China are allowed, and that the viral video does not violate its moderation policy. The BBC notes that while such videos are present on the platform, they generally do not receive as much attention by far.

      Hong Kong protests - TikTok

      In September 2019, TikTok was accused of suppressing videos of the Hong Kong protests , which were almost completely absent when searched with the hashtag #HongKong, when the same hashtag revealed a very large number of videos of the protests on Twitter.

      Content using popular protest hashtags is also almost or completely absent from the platform. The Washington Post notes that it is impossible to know which videos are censored on TikTok in application of its ban on hateful and extremist content, the decisions of ByteDance on this matter being very opaque and the company not providing tools allowing outsiders to research the topic. The newspaper also notes that it is possible that users in Hong Kong practice self-censorship by avoiding posting politically risky content on an application highly watched by Chinese censors. Responding to censorship allegations, TikTok says content moderation for these users is handled by a US team that is not influenced by the Chinese government. The company does not, however, give details of how this content is moderated and what protects the US moderation team from the influence of Chinese authorities. The company also claims that if Hong Kong posts are so scant, it's because the platform is all about entertainment and not politics, with app users looking for "positive and happy content ". On the other hand, it does not provide an answer to the question of whether Hong Kong's moderation policy for events is the same on TikTok as in its Chinese version Douyin.

      Sino-Indian conflict - TikTok

      In June 2020, during the fight between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley , The Times of India claims that TikTok is shadow banning videos relating to the fight and conflict on the Sino-Indian border . Searches using some of the hashtags associated with the conflicting videos, yet present on the platform, would yield no results or results relating only to old content. On the other hand, other hashtags related to sensitive topics for China, such as the Tian'anmen protests, would not work for Indian users of TikTok.

      Leaked censorship instructions

      In September 2019, in the wake of the controversy over the Hong Kong protests, The Guardian newspaper obtained documents that confirmed censorship on TikTok of anti-Chinese government content or content considered sensitive to other governments and companies. This includes content considered to be "demonization or distortions of Chinese or foreign historical events," including the Cambodian genocide, the 1998 riots in Indonesia, and the Tian'anmen Square protests. The rules also prohibit "criticizing the laws and rules of a country", including in particular criticisms of the Chinese socialist system, evoking "separatism, religious conflicts", and "exaggerating conflicts between black and white people". In all these cases, the videos must be hidden and not easily accessible. Other content seems to be able to be completely removed, such as videos promoting discipline and the religious movement Falun Gong, which is banned in China. The mentions of certain personalities are also banned from the platform, in particular of "foreign leaders or sensitive figures" such as Kim Jong-Un , Vladimir Putin , Barack Obama, Donald Trump or Gandhi, but not Chinese President Xi Jinping. TikTok responds by affirming that these rules are no longer in force since May 2019, and that the platform would initially have adopted a “raw” approach to minimize conflicts on the platform, before deciding to moderate the content in a way more local. The platform says it will work with independent local committees to assess its continuous moderation policies and recognizes the need for greater transparency regarding these policies.

      The Guardian then reveals information about local rules, including one set of rules said to be “Strict” for countries with conservative morals, and one tied to specific countries. The "strict" rules are significantly more severe than the global rules previously revealed for questions of nudity and vulgarity, in particular prohibiting "partially bare buttocks", necklines with "a length of more than a third of the breast", and detailed descriptions of sanitary napkins. As for rules related to specific countries, the Guardian reveals that in Turkey, prohibited content includes images of alcohol consumption, representations of "non-Islamic" gods , homosexuality and movements for LGBT rights (all legal practices and representations in the country, although there is a law against "obscene" content), Kurdish separatism and criticism of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan . TikTok officials respond to these second revelations by claiming that the rules for Turkey are no longer in effect.

      Former TikTok employees in the United States report to the Washington Post that final decisions on content removal were made by ByteDance employees in Beijing.

      Users considered unattractive

      In 2020, those in charge of the TikTok app are accused by the English magazine The Intercept of censoring ugly, fat, poor or disabled people, in order to broadcast more attractive videos. They deny this information and appoint, in different countries, officials for confidence and security.

      TikTok's response to controversies

      End 2019, reacting to the controversy over censorship, ByteDance commits the US law firm K & L Gates, including former members of Congress Bart Gordon and Jeff Denham , to advise on moderation policy TikTok, as well as the American lobbying firm Monument Advocacy.

      In March 2020, TikTok admits that its practices "are not without reproach" and announces that it will open a "transparent" moderation center in Los Angeles, where outside observers can assess the practices of the social network in terms of regulation of contents. TikTok also claims that it will eventually give these watchers access to the app's code, so they can judge its security and privacy efforts and help it "improve its moderation policy." and its security systems ”.

      Privacy and Security issues of TikTok

      The platform and its application are the subject of much controversy over its security and privacy. In its privacy policy, TikTok claims to collect, among other things, information on usage, IP address, telephone operator, unique device identifier, keystroke dynamics, and geolocation data.

      In August 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Android version of the TikTok app until November 2019 harvested device identifiers, including MAC addresses and IMEIs, bypassing a ban by Google, the developer of Android. Taking advantage of a flaw, the social network was thus able to collect data allowing it to track users' online activities without their consent or even leaving them the possibility of withdrawing this tracking.

      TikTok's privacy policy states that the platform may share user data with its parent company ByteDance, a subsidiary or affiliate of the group. It can thus share data with its Chinese counterpart Douyin, which has a policy dedicated to the protection of Chinese national security. This indicates in particular that the company “does not require authorization for the collection and use of personal information”.

      Several governments accuse TikTok of being a Trojan horse of the Chinese government. According to Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Institute of Political Strategy, TikTok is obliged to give access to its data if the Chinese intelligence services ask it and to keep this access secret. He cites the country's intelligence regulations, including China's National Intelligence Law, article 7 of which states that "Any organization or citizen shall, in accordance with the law, support, assist and cooperate with the work of national intelligence and keep any national intelligence work of which they are aware”. In other countries, the situation would be different, for example the United States where Apple has publicly refused to decrypt the data an iPhone for the federal police, which then sued the company in court for get.

      Following various controversies in 2020, Bytedance produced a report which notably claimed that the United States had made requests for access to user accounts, but not China, including regarding the 2019-2020 protests in Hong Kong.

      Australia

      In Australia, the app launched in May 2019 and is rapidly gaining popularity, reaching 1.5 million users by July 2020. In June 2020, TikTok opens an office in country.

      In December 2019, the Australian Senate opened a committee of inquiry into foreign interference through social networks, in particular to analyse the risks of disinformation through this means. A parliamentarian argues that TikTok poses questions in view of its development and management in an illiberal society, criticizes its censorship of anti-Chinese government content, and notes the risks of using social networks in terms of espionage, operations influence, censorship for propaganda purposes and even electoral interference. In July 2020, the chair of the investigation committee said that the experts interviewed were concerned about TikTok, and called on its officials to appear before the committee “Leadership” in the face of this problem.

      The managing director of TikTok Australia says that TikTok does not share Australian user data with any foreign government, including the Chinese government, and that the platform would refuse such sharing if requested. He points out that Australian user data is stored in Singapore and that the platform "tries to minimize access to data across regions.  "For Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Institute for Policy Strategy, this formulation is an indirect way of saying that data from Australian TikTok users is passing through China, which would make sense for engineers in Beijing to work on the application. According to Ryan, this is “Particularly worrying" , the Chinese laws on intelligence obliging any company in the country to provide its data on request and not to speak about it when necessary.

      United States

      In November 2019, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton asked the National Intelligence Directorate to assess the espionage risks that TikTok and other Chinese content platforms operating in the United States pose to the country. They especially believe ByteDance is obliged to respect Chinese laws and thus cooperate with the intelligence services of the Chinese Communist Party, even if user data is stored in the United States. They cite in particular China's new national intelligence law that came into effect in 2017, fearing that the app could give Chinese intelligence secret access to users' smartphones and computers, a charge similar to that made against equipment makers Telecommunications and smartphones Huawei and ZTE . They are also concerned about the apparent censorship of content deemed "too politically sensitive against the Chinese Communist Party" and express fears over China's use of TikTok to pressure the 2020 presidential election. TikTok strongly denies the accusations, saying it is not under the influence of any foreign government, that its data centres are located outside of China, and that its data is not subject to Chinese law. The social network also denies censoring content that would disturb the Chinese government, and claims to have never received a request of this kind, adding that it would not respect it if necessary.

      That same month, Republican Senator Josh Hawley invites Apple and TikTok to testify before the United States Congress, at a hearing on digital, personal data and China. TikTok refuses, citing too short a deadline and Apple does not comments.

      India

      In India, the platform is subject to controversies over the risks it would pose to its users' data and to India's security and sovereignty in cyberspace, in the context of the country's military conflict with China.

      Companies views on TikTok

      In July 2020, Amazon asked its employees to remove the application from any phone with access to its internal emails, citing “security risks”, before coming back a few hours later to this communication, which it describes as error. Susan Ariel Aaronson, a professor at George Washington University and expert in data governance and national security, Amazon may have feared app access to its employees' data over accusations of repeated property theft. Intellectual that the US government is doing to China. The company could also have been partly motivated by a desire not to offend the Trump administration, with which it conflicts. TikTok issues a statement claiming that the safety of its users is "of the utmost importance”, and that although concerns are still unclear, it is open to dialogue with Amazon.

      US bank Wells Fargo says it has asked some employees who have installed the app on work phones to uninstall it, due to TikTok privacy and security controversies, and the fact that work phones should not be used at home other purposes.

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      • TikTok: Data Protection, Child safety, National Security and Contents



        Data protection problems of TikTok

        United States

        In December 2019, a class action lawsuit is filed in California Federal Court against ByteDance, Musical.ly and Tiktok. According to the complaint, TikTok illegally and covertly collects vast amounts of personal data, which is then transmitted directly to China. Accused of maintaining an "ambiguous" privacy policy, TikTok Inc. and its parent company ByteDance would notably collect drafts of videos from users without their consent, and transfer them to various domains, including China, without letting the user know. The user is aware of this even before the video is recorded or published. The complainants fear that the aggregated data could then be used to identify users, establish their profile and track them, in particular because they often contain close-ups of faces, therefore allowing the platform to collect reusable biometric data in targeted advertising. Some of the data collected includes phone number, social media profiles, email and IP addresses, geographic location and a lot of other information, and TikTok would continue to collect biometric data and personal information even after the website is closed.

        TikTok logo.svg

        European Union

        In June 2020, the European Committee for Data Protection announces it will investigate the treatment and protection of data TikTok by its owner ByteDance following an interpellation MEP Moritz Körner.

        France

        In August 2020, France in turn looked into the functioning of TikTok following a complaint lodged with the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) concerning a request to delete a video. However, the CNIL's investigation should focus more broadly on compliance with the GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) by TikTok.

        Data protection and child safety

        United States

        In February 2019, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined ByteDance for violations by Musical.ly (which later merged with TikTok) of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Musical.ly would have illegally collected the names, email addresses, photos and other data of children under 13, without first obtaining parental consent, and would have left them publicly accessible, giving rise in particular to attempts to sexual predation by adults. The $ 5.7 million fine is the highest fine imposed by the FTC for acts relating to children's privacy. ByteDance is committed to obtaining parental permission before collecting children's personal data, and to removing all videos and information belonging to users under the age of 13, as well as those whose ages are not known.

        In May 2020, several consumer groups accused TikTok of not having solved the problem, many videos of children under 13 among those denounced in 2019 having not been deleted. They add that TikTok's new service for children under 13, which does not a priori collect any data and on which they cannot post videos, can be bypassed by a child who deletes their account and then creates one. Another on the same phone using a fake date of birth.

        Netherlands

        In May 2020, the Dutch data protection authority opens an investigation to check whether the information provided on the collection of children's data is sufficiently comprehensible and detailed.

        United Kingdom

        In February 2019, the Office of the Information Commissioner of the UK opens investigation TikTok following the fine imposed by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States for illegal gathering and public sharing of child data under 13 years old. The commissioner says she is studying the platform's data collection, the type of videos made and shared online by children, and the platform's messaging system, which is completely open. In particular, she expresses concern about the possibility for adults to send messages to all children, and claims that the company may be in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (RGPD), which requires it to provide differentiated services and protections for children.

        National security issues of TikTok

        In October 2019 in the United States, Republican Senator Marco Rubio , who is worried about “Chinese influence operations” that TikTok could carry out, in particular through censorship for the benefit of the Chinese government, requests the opening of an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). This should relate to the consequences for national security of the takeover in 2017 of the Musical.ly application by ByteDance, which then merged it with TikTok in 2018. The start of an investigation on Musical.ly/TikTok is then reported in the press, where it is reported discussions between CFIUS and ByteDance on so-called "mitigation" measures, which would prevent the company from having to divest from Musical.ly. The CFIUS had a few months earlier asked a Chinese video game company, Kunlun Tech, to resell the homosexual dating platform Grindr, in particular for fear that the Chinese government would use personal information to influence American officials.

        On September 13, 2020, Oracle Corporation won the tender for the U.S. operations of video-sharing app TikTok, defeating Microsoft Corporation in a high-profile deal to save a social media sensation. In addition, Oracle has advertised itself as TikTok's “trusted technology partner” in the US, and the deal does not need to be structured.

        Content and customs related problems of TikTok

        Sexual content

        One of the controversies surrounding the application is that of encouraging narcissism and hypersexualization of its users, often very young. Consequently, it could be a platform of choice for sexual predators.

        In Egypt, two influencers are arrested for having created accounts and published videos that incite immorality and behaviour that goes against Egyptian family values. Another is arrested on similar charges and charged with human trafficking for trying to recruit other influencers to "meet people" and "post entertainment videos" for money, thus inciting young people girls to commit "inappropriate" acts by taking advantage of the difficult economic situation.

        In India, where the application brings together more than two hundred million active users in March 2019, or 43% of the total at this time, it is going through several controversies. In 2018, it was accused of promoting pornography and paedophilia, due to the growing number of adolescents and young adults portraying themselves in sexualized positions or scenarios. The controversy made all the more noise as it broke out in a country very attached to the moral and religious values ​​of Hinduism. In April 2019, the Madras High Court accuses the app of spreading pornographic content and TikTok removes around 6 million controversial video.

        In September 2019, internal documents obtained by the daily The Guardian reveal the instructions related to child pornography. In the case of videos flagged as depicting minors, if the moderators are unable to determine whether the victim appears to be under 18, they are asked to consider them to be an adult by default. Andy Burrows, expert and campaigner for child protection online, criticizes what he sees as a "cavalier approach”, particularly because TikTok recognizes clearly in these internal documents the existence of videos representing people who appear underage in "sexy outfits" or “Seductively dancing” , even using the expression “underage pornography”. ByteDance responds to these revelations by asserting that this document is no longer valid and that it has since decided to treat as such videos of a sexual nature which appear to show minors.

        Hashtag # Autismchallenge

        In May 2020 users’ tiktok launched under the hashtag # Autismchallenge, a parody of the movements and facial expressions of people with autism, through faces and clumsy imitations of dances. This challenge is described as “humiliation”, and provokes a reaction from certain sections of the people who considers this challenge “appalling”.

        Islamic State propaganda

        In October 2019, the Wall Street Journal daily noted that the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS) was posting propaganda videos on 20 accounts showing, among other things, corpses displayed in the streets and armed IS fighters. The accounts would have less than 1000 subscribers. The information is then confirmed by an anonymous contributor TikTok, which states that 10 accounts were deleted, without giving information on 10 other accounts, and that most of the videos had a very small number of views. TikTok claims that accounts promoting terrorist organizations have no place and that their authors will have their accounts and devices blocked.

        Harassment and assault issues of TikTok

        Several users denounce problems of harassment, as well as racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

        In April 2020, TikTok is removing users under 16 from the app's private messaging system, following controversies over cyberbullying of minors and pedophilia. This measure is however criticized as being easy to circumvent.

        In June 2020 the French network users launch #balancetontiktokeur hashtag denouncing sexual harassment they had experienced. Faced with the platform's inaction, the French secretary of state in charge of gender equality Marlène Schiappa contacts her leaders for France to ask them to take action against the harassers. She claims that they did nothing in the face of thousands of testimonials, and that she asked them to ban those implicated in a preventive manner, as the streaming platform Twitch did, as well as to put the victims in contact with justice or associations. In the media, TikTok officials respond by claiming that they suspend users who break the rules, unlike other platforms 

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        • TikTok: Operation, Users, Demography, celebrities, media and politics



          Operation of TikTok:

          TikTok allows users to view music videos, as well as film, edit and share their own clips. The user chooses a song, then films themselves over it for 60 seconds. The application features many titles as well as many musical genres including hip-hop and electronic music. Due to its influence, the application has seen the birth of several viral trends, popularized several songs, propelled users to the rank of personalities on the Web; TikTok is also known to be popular with celebrities.

          The success of the application is due to some of its features to be taken over by its competitors, including Instagram which announced a feature called "Reels", and a new similar American platform called Thriller. In 2018, Facebook launched Lasso, a similar and competing application, a project which it gave up in 2020.

          TikTok logo.svg

          Users of TikTok:

          Demography

          Before the platform was banned in this country, a significant portion of users came from India, 43% according to a March 2019 study. A favourite of teenagers forming the Generation Z , a poll YouGov in September 2019 indicates that 40% of Americans from 13 to 16 years using TikTok, as much as Facebook and Twitter, but less than Snapchat (68%), Instagram (79% ), and YouTube (used by almost everyone). However, a January 2019 survey from the Business Insider website notes that 11% of American Internet users aged 13 to 21 consult TikTok daily, significantly less than these other platforms. In France, the platform had 4 million monthly active users at the end of June 2020.

          Emergence of celebrities on the TikTok network

          The platform propels teens and young adults to full-fledged celebrity status, many of whom go on to sign contracts with sponsors and arts agencies, and whose fame can extend beyond TikTok's scope.

          TikTok thus made famous the American teenager Charli D'Amelio , who downloaded TikTok in the summer of 2019 and became known for her dance videos, before being joined by her sister Dixie D'Amelio, whose account is also becoming extremely popular. In November 2019, the two sisters join the collective of content creators TikTok Hype House, which includes 19 influencers / tiktokers including Addison Rae and Chase Hudson. In January 2020, Charli D'Amelio signed with the talent agency UTA and the New York Times calls her the “queen of TikTok”. In 10 months, her account became the most followed on the platform, and surpassing that of Loren Gray , the March 25, 2020. It subsequently reached over 70.0 million subscribers, as well as 20.1 million on Instagram, 4 million on YouTube and over 2.2 million on Twitter. Victim of harassment and mockery over his body, Charli D'Amelio and her sister Dixie join forces with UNICEF to denounce online bullying and the dangers of celebrity on the platform.

          Young Briton Amelia Gething began her career on Musical.ly at the age of 17, posting skits, covers of songs and dances for fun, quickly becoming popular. She then created a YouTube channel where she could publish longer sketches and reached 500,000 subscribers, attracting the attention of the British public media BBC, which offered to create her own comedy show. This offer, which she accepts, is analyzed as an attempt by the BBC to attract a young audience, as it faces an existential crisis in its competition with major streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube. Amelia Gething continues to post content on TikTok (which merged with Musical.ly) where she reached 7 million subscribers in 2019, seven times the sum of her YouTube and Instagram subscribers.

          TikTok app is making famous musicians whose tracks go viral on the platform, such as young American rapper Lil Nas X and his song Old Town Road, French musician Kid Francescoli and French singer Wejdene.

          Media portrayal of this app:

          With the success of the application among the youngest, various Western media are joining the platform, publishing videos adopting its codes, in order to take advantage of the site's strong audience to try in particular to rejuvenate their audience by reaching a generation whose media consumption is different from previous generations. The Washington Post's head of video creation explains that TikTok is very useful, drawing a parallel with its crossword section, long denigrated by readers before becoming very famous and representing real cash flow as well as a source of new subscriptions. Le Monde newspaper joins the platform in June 2020 after confinement in France which has fostered its growth in the country. The head of its Snapchat / TikTok department says that success on the social and current affairs platform like the # BlackLivesMatter movement is testament to a generation of users capable of taking an interest in complex subjects, and who often ask to tackle “difficult” subjects, such as the situation of the Uyghurs, otherwise known to cause controversies related to censorship on the platform.

          Politics and TikTok:

          With its popularity soaring in their countries, the platform is attracting European politicians from 2019 and 2020, including Matteo Salvini , Elio Di Rupo and Agnès Buzyn . In Venezuela, it is used by President Nicolás Maduro. In the US, despite the strong success of the platform, it is not joined by President Donald Trump or the Democrat candidate to the presidential 2020 race Joe Biden. In July 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron joined the platform and published a video congratulating the high school students having passed their baccalaureate, in a highly publicized action. The action is analyzed in particular as an entry into the campaign for the 2022 presidential election, not directly targeting users of the platform, mainly minors or among the low-voting age group. Emmanuel Macron is then followed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon , member of the La France Insoumise party and potential presidential candidate of 2022, who responds to him by publishing a parody music video adopting the codes of the platform, and shares the video on Twitter inviting Prime Minister Jean Castex to create an account.

          In June 2020, the platform was reportedly used by adolescents and young adults to coordinate an attempt to sabotage an election rally by US President Donald Trump, in particular through videos explaining how to reserve seats for the rally, offered free of charge, but without intention of going there.

           

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