Connect with us

Business

Influencers Fight to #SaveTikTok Amid Data Concerns

Published

on

  • As privacy concerns over TikTok grow, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said officials were considering a ban of the app.
  • TikTok users and creators like Michael Le are trying to fight against this using the hashtag #SaveTikTok, arguing that the app has been a light in dark times for many people.
  • On the other hand, big companies like Wells Fargo are telling their employees to delete the app from their work devices, while the DNC and RNC have both warned their staffers about the app.
  • Gamer and streamer Ninja announced that he has deleted the app as well, saying he hopes a “less intrusive company” can recreate the successful concept.

TikTok Users Try to Save the App

TikTok creators are fighting to save the video-sharing app from a potential United States ban as security concerns over the platform continue to grow.

In early July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning the app, which is owned by Chinese-based company ByteDance. India banned the app over security concerns in June. Since then, users of the app have been left to wonder where they would go if they lost access to TikTok.

Michael Le, a creator on TikTok who has garnered a following of 33.8 million users, posted a video encouraging people to #SaveTikTok. 

@justmaiko

Comment #SaveTiktok to be apart of this petition and spread the word. Lets FIGHT for what we love💙

♬ SaveTiktok – justmaiko

“I’m starting a petition with hashtag #SaveTikTok,” Le said in a video that has now been viewed nearly 9 million times and liked by over 2 million people. “2020 has had so many tragedies, and TikTok has been one of the most positive outlets for us all whether it’s watching or creating content,” he continued.

TikTok has been a popular app for a while, but since lockdown measures began in response to the coronavirus pandemic, its popularity has grown even more. It’s become the social media platform of choice for many, particularly Generation Z, as many parts of the world continue to isolate.

According to Sensor Tower, the app has been downloaded 2 billion times. 165 million of those downloads have come from the U.S.

Le said that while the app has “flaws” it has inspired people in hard times and lifted spirits during the pandemic. He asked that people comment #SaveTikTok on his video to create the social petition. As of Monday morning, his video has received over 460,000 comments, many of which use the hashtag. Some of those comments came from other popular creators like Tony Lopez, Jon Klaasen, and Justin Vibes. The #SaveTikTok hashtag has received a total of 311 million views throughout the app. 

Concerns Remain Strong

However, not everyone is working to save the app. Some large companies and prominent figures have advocated for deleting TikTok.

Wells Fargo has asked that all its employees delete the app from their work devices because of security concerns. The Democratic and Republican National Committees have even warned that their staffers about the app.

Amazon sent out a memo asking their employees to delete it but quickly backtracked the order, explaining it was sent in error. 

On top of all that, popular gamer and streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins announced that he deleted the app and hopes a “less intrusive company” can recreate the successful concept. 

As for why so many people are wary of TikTok, many believe that the app is sending user information to China. TikTok has repeatedly denied this, claiming that user safety is their top priority and that they have not and will not share information with China.

Geoffrey Fowler, a technology columnist for the Washington Post, has explained that the app does collect a substantial amount of information of its users. It is not exactly clear whether or not that information makes its way to China, though it is possible. In a Monday morning piece, Fowler wrote that the app collects information on the content you consume, in-app messages you send, as well as location information, your phone contacts, age and other social network connections. 

While this is likely not more than the information Facebook might be grabbing from its users, it is still a sturdy haul. To find out what happens with that information, Fowler worked with Patrick Jackson, the chief technology officer at a privacy company called Disconnect to watch data flow out of TikTok. While they did not see it make its way to servers known to be in China, they believe it is possible, and even likely, that data could be transmitted to other locations that they could not verify. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Verge) (Wall Street Journal)

Business

Tech Ethicist Tristan Harris Talks Council For Responsible Social Media, TikTok, Twitter, and More

Published

on

Harris is part of a bipartisan group that is aiming to reform social media for good.


The Council For Responsible Social Media 

Tristan Harris, the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, understands why many people view TikTok as a harmless app with jokes and dances. Harris, however, sees the Chinese-owned platform as a national security risk. 

“During the Cold War, would you have allowed the Soviet Union to control television programming for the entire western world, including Saturday morning cartoons, the ‘Teletubbies’ and ‘Sesame Street?’” he said during an interview with Rogue Rocket. 

That’s what he argues is happening with TikTok. The app, which is the most downloaded in the world, is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Harris says we are “effectively outsourcing our media environment to, in the case of the United States, the number one geopolitical competitor.”

National security issues with TikTok, the extreme polarization caused by Facebook and Twitter, and a slew of other issues are among the reasons Harris and several other bipartisan leaders formed The Council For Responsible Social Media last month. 

Co-Chaired by former congressman Dick Gephardt and former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Kerry Healey, the group was made in partnership with the nonprofit IssueOne. Other members include Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, former Sen. Claire McCaskill, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Harris. 

It aims to pressure tech companies and politicians to make social media less harmful in every facet. 

“What are the wins we can get on the scoreboard?” Harris explained. “Things like, frankly, banning TikTok or otherwise forcing a total sale of TikTok?…Can we do things like pass the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act?” 

The TikTok Problem

When it comes to TikTok, the idea of banning it is not new. Former president Donald Trump attempted to do so in 2020, and earlier this month, a Federal Communications Commission official urged the U.S. to do away with it. 

In Harris’ eyes, the threat posed by TikTok looms much larger than just mindless entertainment.

“When we outsource our media environment to a CCP-controlled company, we are effectively outsourcing our voting machine to the CCP,” Harris said. “How do you know who to vote for? Why is it that you know more about Marjorie Taylor Greene and [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] than the other hundreds of members of Congress? Because the attention economy rewards certain people to rise to the top.”

Social media apps, TikTok included, favor people that are more likely to be divisive, on either end of the political spectrum. Harris referred to this as “amplifiganda,” something the CCP can use to interfere with another nation’s political and cultural happenings. 

“It’s strategically amplifying who are the voices I want to hear from and who are the voices I don’t want to hear from,” he added. “Without firing a single shot, without creating a single piece of new propaganda, I can simply amplify the politicians and videos that I want you to be seeing.”

In China, domestic users receive what Harris calls the “spinach” version of the app, that largely includes educational content, science experiments, and patriotism videos. He says it is very different from the scroll-for-hours version the U.S. and other international markets receive.

Harris, however, does not think this was part of “a deliberate plan” or that there’s a “large mustache that’s being twirled somewhere in China.” Rather, this is just an after-the-fact consequence of TikTok succeeding at being highly addictive, and China simply regulating it for itself.

Banning the app is not the only solution, Harris noted. Officials could also attempt to force a purchase of TikTok. A similar case happened in the past with Grindr. After a U.S. foreign investment commission said the app’s Chinese ownership was a security risk, the dating app was sold to a U.S.-based group.

“And now it’s not that the company is partially in China or partially in the U.S., or the data is on an American server while the design decisions are made in Bejing, it’s not like that,” Harris explained. “They forced the entire sale.” 

“Anything less than that with TikTok would be insufficient.”

Legislative Action

Despite the numerous issues posed by nearly every social media platform, enacting meaningful change will be no small feat. The Council For Responsible Social Media has outlined several steps it plans on taking, including awareness campaigns and hearings that could inspire action. 

On the legislative front, this could involve the passage of the aforementioned Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, which was introduced by bipartisan senators last year and would “require social media companies to provide vetted, independent researchers and the public with access to certain platform data.”

Harris does not think this bill is a cure-all, he does think it should be a no-brainer for politicians to pass. 

“It won’t change the DNA of the cancer cell that is social media, it’ll be more like the cancer cell is printing quarterly reports about what it is doing to society, but that’s still a better world than having a cancer cell where you don’t know what it’s doing,” he said. 

Many advocates believe transparency is key when it comes to reforming social media, as it educates the general public about what these apps are really doing. 

The Future of Twitter

Harris thinks education about social media has inadvertently grown over the last several weeks as billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter. The process has proven to be quite chaotic, but it has also forced people to learn about Twitter’s problems.

“Twitter has already been a chaos-making, inflammation-for-profit machine. Elon buying Twitter doesn’t change that, he’s just running the inflammation-for-profit machine,” Harris said. 

Musk’s acquisition has created a substantial financial bind and forced the mogul into a position where he has to turn engagement and revenue up. This has involved cutbacks on content moderation and laying off staff that worked on trust and safety.

“He has to figure out a way to lower costs and increase revenue, which unfortunately basically moves the whole system into a more and more dangerous direction,” Harris claimed, though he did say he does not view this as a character flaw on Musk’s part, rather just the reality of how these apps operate. 

When it comes to fixing the root problems at Twitter, Harris thinks Musk has his eyes on the wrong target by focusing on censorship and free speech. 

It has to do with Twitter being a bad video game in which citizens earn or score the most points by adding inflammation to cultural fault lines,” he explained.  

“If we’re playing a video game, and you earn the most points by finding a new cultural war faultline and inflaming it better than some other guy, you’re an inflammation entrepreneur,” he continued. “Turning citizens into inflammation entrepreneurs for profit is how we destroy democracies.” 

Harris said that if Musk wants to change Twitter for the better, he has to “change the video game of what Twitter is” so that people are not rewarded for inflammation, but for consensus. 

Continue Reading

Business

Meta Fined $24.7 Million for Campaign Finance Violations As Profits Fall 50%

Published

on

A judge found the company violated Washington State’s campaign finance law more than 800 times since 2020 despite having previously settled a lawsuit for identical violations in 2018.


Judge Fines Facebook

A judge in Washington state slapped Meta with a $24.7 million fine on Wednesday after finding it had intentionally violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws.

In a statement, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson described the judgment as “the largest campaign finance penalty anywhere in the country — ever.”

According to the judge, Meta violated Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act 822 times. Each count carries a maximum fine of $30,000. 

The law, which was passed in 1972, requires entities that sell political ads to make certain information public, including the names and addresses of ad buyers, the targets of the ads, how the ads were financed, and the total number of views. While TV stations and newspapers have followed this law for decades in Washington, Meta has continually refused to comply with the law, even arguing unsuccessfully in court that the act is unconstitutional because it “unduly burdens political speech” and is “virtually impossible to fully comply with.”

The matter has been a long, ongoing battle for Meta. In 2018, when Meta was still Facebook, Ferguson sued the platform for violating the same law. As part of a settlement, the social media network agreed to pay $238,000 and commit to transparency in political advertising.

At the time, Facebook said it would rather stop selling ads in Washington state than adhere to the law, but it continued to sell ads while also still refusing to comply. Ferguson responded by filing another suit in 2020, which resulted in the Wednesday ruling.

Meta’s Financial Woes

Although $24.7 million may seem like pocket change to a multi-billion dollar corporation, the fines come as Meta is facing unprecedented financial troubles.

Also on Wednesday, the company reported a 50% drop in profits for the third quarter of 2022. The decline follows a recent trend as Meta’s earnings continue to suffer from slowing ad sales, fierce competition from platforms like TikTok, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to spend massive amounts of money on developing the metaverse.

In July, the tech giant posted its first-ever sales decline since becoming a public company. Meta’s stock has also nose-dived over 60% this year. The market reacted poorly to the reported drop in profits Wednesday, sending the stock down nearly 20%.

Despite the fact that the past year has been one of the worse ever for the business following Zuckerberg’s decision to rebrand as Meta and go all-in with the metaverse, his commitment remains fervent.

According to reports, during a call with analysts Wednesday, the CEO argued that people would “look back decades from now” and “talk about the importance of the work that was done here” in regards to the metaverse and virtual reality.

See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (Axios) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading

Business

ByteDance Looks To Expand Music Streaming Service in Potential Threat to Spotify

Published

on

The move could strengthen the power TikTok currently wields over the music industry.


Talks With Music Labels

TikTok parent company ByteDance is looking to expand its music streaming service, Resso, in a move that could shift both music consumption and marketing, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In a report on Wednesday, the Journal said that ByteDance is currently in talks with music labels about bringing Resso to over a dozen new markets. Currently, the platform is only available in Brazil, India, and Indonesia. While the United States would not be part of this next growth phase, the China-based company has its eyes on an eventual global expansion. 

According to the Journal’s sources, in the long run, ByteDance hopes to integrate Resso and TikTok so that users who discover music on the video app can then subscribe and listen on the audio platform. Such a move could pose a threat to audio streaming giants like Spotify.

Over the past several years, TikTok has become increasingly powerful in the music industry. Its short videos paired with snappy soundbites make it prime for songs to go viral, and as a result, it has launched the careers of some of today’s biggest stars. 

Lil Nas X was propelled to fame after releasing “Old Town Road” to TikTok. Millions of users began using the track on the app for their viral videos, leading the song to dominate both radio play and streaming. It eventually broke the record as the longest-running song atop the Billboard 100. 

Likewise, Olivia Rodrigo went from a Disney+ actress to one of the biggest names in music overnight after her debut single “drivers license” blew up on TikTok. That song, as well as her follow-up singles, topped the charts and landed her multiple Grammy Awards. 

Potential Complications

Because TikTok is where so many young people discover music, expanding Resso would allow ByteDance to keep its user base under its own umbrella. It could also consolidate work for artists who already market their music on TikTok.

This expansion, however, will likely not come without complications. Sources told the Journal that even though this could potentially serve as another revenue source for TikTok, the biggest hurdle will be figuring out how much to pay out to labels. Some record companies have even expressed direct doubt about Resso to ByteDance.

While TikTok has seen exponential revenue growth over the years, making money from music streaming is a challenge. As a result, Spotify has had to lean heavily on podcasting. 

When it comes to Resso, reports say most users do not actually pay for it. Like Spotify, it has an ad-supported free tier. According to the Journal, very few free users become paid subscribers. 

The app’s popularity is increasing in the three countries it is available in, though. According to Insider, in Jan. 2021, the app had just a 4.8% market share of monthly active users in music streaming in India. That was just a fraction of the 18% held by Spotify at the time. 

By Jan. 2022, that gap got significantly smaller. Resso’s 17% share is only slightly less than Spotify’s 22.8% share.​​ 

Wednesday’s news about ByteDance’s intentions to grow the app sent Spotify’s stock sliding, though it had picked up again by mid-day Thursday.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Yahoo News) (Reuters)

Continue Reading