How the TikTok Trend Started, and Why Indians Want it to End
Written by Rehmat Kaur,a grade 9 student.
May 2020 has certainly been an eventful month for the Chinese social networking app TikTok.
Written by Rehmat Kaur, a grade 9 student
May 2020 has certainly been an eventful month for the Chinese social networking app TikTok. It recently came under fire in India when one its users, Faizal Siddiqui, posted an offensive video promoting acid attacks on women. TikTok took down the video after it received backlash from the public, but it has left a lasting impact. The app’s ratings dropped from 4.5 to 1.2 stars on the Google Play Store in India. People are now petitioning for the video-sharing network to be banned in the country.
TikTok started as Douyin, a social networking service owned by Chinese IT Company ByteDance. Since the time TikTok was released outside of China in 2017, it has gained around 800 million users. Its users create and share short videos in which they can sing, dance, lipsync to popular songs, and put up comedy skits. In the US, TikTok was launched in 2018 after merging with Musical.ly, a similar video-sharing app. Before long, it had taken the internet by a storm. It was the second most downloaded app in 2019, with over a billion downloads globally.
However, TikTok also received criticism for allowing users to post explicit videos which were unsuitable for its many teenage users. Parents were concerned about the app corrupting children’s minds and exposing them to dangerous content. So it’s no surprise that TikTok is receiving so many petitions to be banned in India. Faizal Siddiqui’s video isn’t the only reason for TikTok’s decline in India. An influential Indian YouTuber, CarryMinati, released a scathing video comparing TikTok unfavourably to YouTube. His followers took to uninstalling the TikTok app and giving it negative reviews. Before CarryMinati’s video was deleted due to violating YouTube’s policies against cyber harassment, it became the most liked video on YouTube India. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister of India encouraged citizens to be ‘vocal for local’. This too led to a drop in the number of TikTok users in the country, as TikTok is a Chinese app. Mainly though, the controversy around Siddiqui’s video has confirmed what many suspected: TikTok is not suitable for impressionable children and teenagers.
Amid the controversy in India, TikTok has undergone another major change. Disney executive Kevin Mayer became the CEO of TikTok and COO of its parent company Bytedance. This means that he will make all major corporate decisions about TikTok and is second-in-command to ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming. Before Mayer became CEO of TikTok, he was the head of streaming at The Walt Disney Company. He played a prominent role in launching their new streaming service, Disney+.
There have been numerous allegations against TikTok accusing them of data harvesting. This, along with the many explicit videos which make their way on the app, has made parents concerned about the safety of their children. Kevin Mayer certainly has a difficult job ahead of him. He must try to make TikTok more family-friendly, complying with the wishes of many concerned parents. Schools and parents want age-appropriate filters and more parental control options to be introduced. But by restricting too many features, TikTok will lose its many teenage users and followers. It’s up to Kevin Mayer to strike a balance and ensure that TikTok will grow in the US and in other parts of the world. Despite the controversy in India, TikTok is bigger than ever in other countries. Kevin Mayer was responsible for the growth of what is now one of the most trusted names in the world. Perhaps he can transform TikTok in the same way.
Finally, TikTok is like any other social media service. It can be used to spread awareness about important issues, or can serve as a mindless distraction to its users. TikTok has made its mark on the world. If promoted the right way, it will grow worldwide and perhaps regain its following in India.
Written by Rehmat Kaur, a grade 9 student