TikTok is a video-sharing social networking service a Chinese company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming.
It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos.ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016. Later, TikTok was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in markets outside of China. It became available in the United States after merging with musical.ly on 2 August 2018. TikTok and Douyin are similar to each other, however they run on separate servers to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions.
(It has been suggested that this article be split into a new article titled Douyin. (Discuss) (March 2020)
The application allows users to create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds. The app is popular in Asia, the United States, and other parts of the world. TikTok and Douyin’s servers are each based in the markets where the apps are available.
After merging with musical.ly in August, downloads rose and TikTok became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018, the first Chinese app to achieve this. As of 2018, it was available in over 150 markets and in 75 languages. In February 2019, TikTok, together with Douyin, hit one billion downloads globally, excluding Android installs in China. In 2019, media outlets cited TikTok as the 7th-most-downloaded mobile app of the decade, from 2010 to 2019. It was also the most-downloaded app on the App Store in 2018 and 2019.
Since May 2020, Kevin Mayer is CEO of TikTok and COO of parent company, ByteDance. Previously he was chairman of the Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International.
On 27 November 2019, TikTok temporarily suspended the account of 17-year-old Afghan-American user Feroza Aziz after she posted a video, disguised as a makeup tutorial, drawing attention to the internment camps of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. TikTok later claimed that her account was suspended as a result of human error, and her account has since been reinstated.
In March 2020, internal documents leaked to The Intercept revealed that moderators had been instructed to suppress posts created by users deemed “too ugly, poor, or disabled” for the platform, and to censor political speech in livestreams, punishing those who harmed “national honor” or broadcast streams about “state organs such as police” with bans from the platform.
In April 2020, it was reported that Douyin suspended users who speak Cantonese on its livestreaming platform. In a statement, Bytedance said Douyin is “building out content safety capabilities” and that Cantonese is not “fully supported.” However, Bytedance did not explain its reasoning.
In November 2019, it was reported that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States opened an investigation into ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly. The same month, following a request by Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy agreed to assess the risks of using TikTok as a recruitment tool.
Senator Josh Hawley introduced the National Security and Personal Data Protection Act to prohibit TikTok’s parent company and others from transferring personal data of Americans to China. In December 2019, the United States Navy as well as the U.S. Army banned TikTok from all government-issued devices. The Transportation Security Administration also prohibited its personnel from posting on the platform for outreach purposes. Following its prohibition by the U.S. military, the Australian Defence Force also banned TikTok on its devices. Legislation was subsequently introduced in the U.S. Senate that would prohibit all federal employees from using or downloading TikTok.
User privacy concerns
In January 2020, Check Point Research discovered a security flaw in TikTok which could have allowed hackers access to user accounts using SMS. In February, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman criticised the app, calling it “spyware,” and stating “I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.” Responding to Huffman’s comments, TikTok stated “These are baseless accusations made without a shred of evidence.”
In May 2020, the Dutch Data Protection Authority announced an investigation into TikTok in relation to privacy protections for children
TikTok Death Tracker
There have been multiple TikTok related accidents that have resulted in users losing their lives or severely injuring themselves while filming. The most common types of TikToks that led to these deaths and injuries included stunts, challenges, weapons, vehicles, and suicides. Monitored by the website, “TikTok Death Tracker,” an aggregator of news stories regarding these fatalities, these incidents have most commonly occurred in countries such as Australia, Pakistan, Canada, US, Brazil, and Kuwait.
The most recent death on 11 March 2020, took place in India where a TikTok craze caused a newly married man to be crushed by tractor while performing a stunt in hopes to gain fame on the app.
Cyberbullying via the ‘Comments’ section in TikTok can instigate the worsening of mental health issues, and cause self-harm and self-mutilation in susceptible individuals. The first death recorded on 19 October 2018, was in India as well where a Chennai youth male committed suicide from a vehicle due to being bullied for dressing up as a woman in his TikTok videos.
The “TikTok Death Tracker” website was created to promote awareness of safety concerns to ensure users are being safe when posting and viewing content. TikTok claims to be a secure and safe app if users follow the terms and conditions that appear on a user’s screen when creating an account.