Available in over 150 countries with over 1.5 billion downloads, TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, has easily become one of the most popular social media Apps. Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, users as young as 13 years record and upload videos of them dancing, singing, or creating short videos either mimicking an iconic movie scene or highlighting important societal issues. But issues such as copyright laws and children’s safety have surfaced in recent weeks – is TikTok tripping over its own toes?
One of the most popular dances to emerge from the platform is the Renegade dance. Made popular by Instagram dancer, Jalaiah Harmon, the video was uploaded late October on her account. But later on in 2019, a TikTok user by the name of global.jones went viral on TikTok as he posted a video doing the dance, without acknowledging the creator. Hundreds of TikTok followers followed suit, giving zero credit to Jalaiah. It wasn’t until she appeared on the Ellen show did she become famous. Another user on Twitter who goes by the name @itshippypotter claimed that one of his TikTok dances which he created was going viral without crediting him as the choreographer. Stories such as these are all too common on the platform – creators are not being credited for their creativity. Oblivious to the ‘terms and conditions’ associated with the App, users simply accept without familiarising themselves with the rules – content that is shared on the platform can be reposted and recreated by anyone else on the App. This raises the challenge many content creators face globally – credit for their creations.
In 2019, the App sparked outraged as reports of predators on the App spying on young users came to light. According to Ryan Boderick of Buzzfeed, minors on the App came out onto social media with screenshots from messages they had received from predators and abusers. The algorithms of the App work similarly to those of Facebook – once you show interest in a certain topic or category, the app will give you suggestions that are more closely related to your content. In the case of predators who willingly seek out videos from younger users, the individual will likely be hit with content from users just as young. Multiple users have flagged inappropriate TikTok users to warn others, but the efforts fall onto deaf ears as the predator profiles remain on the platform. To read more stories related to this issue, click here.
In the US, privacy concerns have been raised over the App. As mentioned above, the App used to be known as Musical.ly which was an American App that allowed its users to record videos of them singing and collaborate with others in duets. TikTok, a Chinese App acquired this program, thus blurring the lines between the privacy of its users. Concerns raised include the Chinese government obtaining information about the users for their own benefit, which is similar to the dispute Chinese cell phone manufacture Huawei had with Google last year. According to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, multiple censorship requests from China were coming in, increasing the alertness of the US government about its citizen’s privacy. Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman came out and termed the App parasitic due to its information collecting nature. He mentions how the App collects, location, browsing history and fingerprints of its users and warns people not to install the app because of this.
Another aspect of the App is the increase of harmful challenges going viral. An issue that was localised at the beginning of the year was the increase of the harmful challenge, the Skullbreaker challenge. This dangerous act involves 3 individuals who stand in a horizontal line. The 2 individuals on each side jump simultaneously while the individual in the middle jumps after them. Once the one in the middle lands, the two on the side, kick his/her feet from underneath them to make them fall. This has obviously led to fractured bones and one individual landing in ICU. Parents around SA were warned by their children’s schools and by news agencies about teaching their children about this dangerous craze.
The App does offer a safer version for its younger users which limits their freedom on the App. When activated, younger users are not allowed to search for any adult content such as sex without their parent’s approval. As much as this is progressive, it becomes easy to bypass this just by simply entering a false birth date.
Well, love it or hate it, the App is here to stay. Just like any other app such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube it has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to note both, as the advantages always seem to outweigh the latter. We recommend