TikTok zombies, being influenced by the algorithm

TikTok Watch

The Chinese-controlled social network really doesn't want to play nice with other governments…

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The questions about the power and influence globally of a social network based in China — which bans most others social networks — just won't go away. It's shot itself in the foot over the US attempt to force a sale of TikTok - or see it banned — by flexing its power:

MG Siegler:

Riddle me this: if you're a Chinese-owned entity under fire due to the concern that your app has immense power in swaying your user base to influence aspects of American life such as politics, what do you do to assuage such concerns? The answer, according to TikTok, is apparently use your immense power to sway your user base to influence American politics.

And its faithfulness to previously made commitments to keep US data out of China seems, well, uncommitted, at best.

Alexandra Strenlicht writing for Fortune:

Nearly every 14 days, as part of Turner’s job throughout 2022, he emailed spreadsheets filled with data for hundreds of thousands of U.S. users to ByteDance workers in Beijing. That data included names, email addresses, IP addresses, and geographic and demographic information of TikTok U.S. users, he says. The goal was to sift through the information to mine for insights like the geographical regions where users watched the most videos of a particular genre and decide how the company should invest to encourage users to be more active. It all took place after the company had started its initiative to keep sensitive U.S. user data in the U.S., and only available to U.S. workers. 

TikTok is where the young people are. But is reaching them at the cost of propping up an untrustworthy network actually a price worth paying? I foresee some difficult discussions in newsrooms, unless Bytedance changes its ways. And It can't see China giving up its soft influence tool that easily.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.