What’s happening at TikTok?

July 7, 2020

As you’ve probably heard, TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world and was installed 315 million times in the first quarter of the year, with 2 billion cumulative downloads in the current quarter. I compiled some information for a client today and thought you might it find useful.

While the app has been hugely popular with consumers, there have been concerns about the China-based company’s use of data. Last week, TikTok was banned in India along with 58 other apps citing national security concerns. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applauded the country’s “clean app” approach and claimed such apps serve as an extension of China’s “surveillance state.”

The move has made ripples across the US and Europe with calls for investigation, and Australian Senator Jenny McAllister, chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media, has said: “There have been credible reports that TikTok takes more data than its users would expect, and moderates content for reasons that its users may not be comfortable with.” Internal documents published in March instructed moderators to suppress posts created by users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform.

With discourse centring on TikTok being “a data collection service disguised as social media”, the platform has defended its record on privacy, stating “we always welcome the opportunity to meet with policymakers to talk about TikTok, including the steps we’re taking to make it an even safer and more creative place.”

Admittedly, there can be some attribution towards China’s worsening diplomatic relations, and even sour notes from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who told 2GB he found it “passing strange” that some people had raised privacy concerns about the Australian government’s COVIDSafe app “but they’ll load their dance moves up on TikTok in the afternoon”.

There will remain a focus on TikTok over the coming weeks and months, as well as the other social channels. As Senator Jenny McAllister said, “We want Australians to have confidence that the only thing to worry about when using TikTok is the quality of their dance moves.”

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