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TikTok

TikTok is a short-form video platform that initially began as Musical.ly in July 2014,1) then ByteDance acquired it on Novemeber 9, 20172) and rebranded it to TikTok by August 2, 2018.3) Occasionally, the platform has undergone severe criticism for a wide variety of factors.

Summary

On the surface, it's a fast-paced platform that heavily relies on an algorithm to let users mindlessly sift past short-form videos that can be cute, entertaining, or informative. However, the issues arise when you start looking at how the algorithm crafts echo chambers which causes misinformation or propaganda to spread, challenge content moderation, or question user privacy on a biometric-heavy platform.4)

History

In 2014, entrepreneurs Jùn(Alex) Zhū5) and Lùyù(Louis) Yáng6) developed the short-form education app, Cicada, which failed to reach its target demographic. The team would proceed to spend 30 days reworking the app, then unveiled Musical.ly on July 2014, deciding to expand on short-form content in general. This was a success, as it captured their target demographic and managed to retain a userbase.

Musical.ly saw exponential growth by April 2015, repositioning their watermark7) and indirectly drawing in Lip Sync Battle's audience,8) branding itself as a lip-synching app. Meanwhile in China, ByteDance had developed A.me in September 2016, the Kwai clone9) that became Dǒuyīn (抖音, lit. “shake sound”),10)11) and ended up acquiring the Musical.ly app for an undisclosed amount on November 9, 2017.12)13)14)

Over time, the two apps gradually became uniform, finally rebranding to TikTok on August 2, 2018,15) and most hated the changes at first.16)17)18)19) This eventually passed by Summer 2019, especially during the pandemic lockdowns, and the app has since become a significant household name. Naturally, this would be an issue for competing social platforms and corrupt politicians.

Statesian ban attempts

As the platform rose in 2019, several Statesian conservatives, some backed by Meta Platforms,20)21) began to demand investigations of TikTok.22) Under the Trump administration, TikTok was pressured to divest as Trump signed EO 13942 on August 6, 2020, but this was taken to court, given an injunction,23) then dropped as the Biden administration repealed it by signing EO 14034 on June 9, 2021.24)

Despite this, TikTok found itself banned from government-issued devices in several states25) and even at the federal level on December 29, 2022.26) As the idea of a ban grows unpopular27)28) and people begin sympathizing with Palestine,29)30)31)32) the Biden administration would sign a foreign aid package that had a section resuming pressures to divest snuck in on April 24, 2024.33)34)

Considering that the Biden 2024 campaign had launched their TikTok account on February 11, 2024, during Super Bowl LVIII and one of many Rafah strikes,35) this was a surprise and the irony of running their reelection campaign on the platform they might ban is definitely not lost.36)37)38) As it currently stands, TikTok has until January 2025 to divest, though ByteDance will obviously take this issue to court.39)40)

Notes

  • The name “TikTok” stems from the “tick-tock” sound that analog clocks make, presumably chosen to represent the platform's short, snappy videos, while also matching its Chinese counterpart.
    • In the Chinese language, the equivalent onomatopoeia for “tick-tock” is actually “dīdā” (滴答).
    • Due to the platform's popularity, it's become a bit inconvenient to search for “tick-tock” being used as an ominous warning, such as “Tick-Tock for TikTok” for example.41)42)43)44)
  • A number of users engage in “algospeak”, a form of self-censorship that borrows euphemisms, emojis, and leetspeak, to bypass the internet's growing use of moderation filters.45)46)47)
    • On the other hand, it does sound a bit paranoid and superstitious, overlooking that users may not have the time to listen or develop compassion fatigue through repeated exposure.
    • In late 2022, The Washington Post conducted their experiment on alleged TikTok suppression, but concluded that their experiment was simply flawed and wrote it off as inconclusive.48)
  • Personally, I don't have any memories of Musical.ly, since it got popular after I graduated high school, but I do vaguely recall being confused whenever I saw their early advertisements.
  • During the 2018 rebrand, it ended up catapulting itself into the public consciousness since it became cool to hate on TikTok, solely because it was the “cringe duet” and “women dancing” app.
    • At the same time, Russian users on Sosach began trolling people with bait-and-switch edits of said dancing with the Ricardo Milos dance, though Milos would later discourage this.
  • There has been a phenomenon of well-known, iconic songs becoming “TikTok songs” through TikTok, which eventually comes down to influence what radio stations decide to play over the air.
  • My only minor critique is that the short-form video format has led to a resurgence of screamers and gore or shock videos, though these have become a bit rare to come across lately.

See also

  • YouTube - Arguably pioneered the format, killed it, then brought it back as YouTube Shorts.
2) , 13)
"Social-Media App Musical.ly Is Acquired for as Much as $1 Billion" (November 9, 2017). The Wall Street Journal.
4)
TikTok isn't alone on the list of social media that heavily relies on human faces and voices, which should really make you question how social media uses your biometric data, but it is one of the worst offenders because of how the platform is set up around human faces. The company's official stance is that the data is mostly used for analytics, filters/effects, safety, and improving the user experience.
5)
“Zhū Jùn” (朱骏) is the Chinese name, “Alex Zhu” is the English name.
6)
“Yáng Lùyù” (阳陆育) is the Chinese name, “Louis Yang” is the English name.
10)
"The App That Launched a Thousand Memes" (February 20, 2018). Sixth Tone.
18)
"What’s up with everyone hating the app Tik Tok?" (October 19, 2018). Reddit /r/outoftheloop.
19)
"TikTok Is Cringey and That's Fine" (October 25, 2018). The Atlantic.
20)
"Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok" (March 20, 2022). The Washington Post.
23)
"TikTok Files for Injunction to Stop Ban of App" (September 23, 2020). The New York Times.
41)
"Tick Tock for TikTok" (December 15, 2022). Slate.
43)
"Tick tock for TikTok?" (March 19, 2024). NPR.
tiktok.txt · Last modified: 2024-05-08 20:38:17 by namelessrumia