I’m not sure if this angle is going to work as TikTok might hope.
Ever since the first rumors of a potential TikTok ban in the US started to circulate, TikTok has been looking to showcase the benefits its platform, to US users in particular, in an effort to root itself into American culture, thereby making it harder to justify banning the app.
It’s latest push on this front is a new ad campaign, which aims to underline, in TikTok’s own words, how the platform has become “ubiquitous part of everyday American life”.
I mean, I guess. Though I doubt that anyone who’s ever used TikTok has felt that positivity and inspiration are key focus elements of the app.
In the accompanying messaging, TikTok highlights the various ways in which the platform has played a part in spreading joy, and bringing people together, while also launching careers, driving support for causes, educating the masses, etc.
“Every new story created on TikTok is the start of an exciting journey. Videos travel far and wide as they’re discovered, shared, and reimagined in Duets. As an idea catches on, so too does its impact across borders, cultures, languages, and communities. What begins as seconds of authentic creativity often turns into much more: careers blossom, memes develop, hobbies flourish, communities coalesce, and obscure songs climb to the top of music charts. Once a story For You, it becomes a story for her, for him, for them, for us.”
It’s pretty heavy-handed, and far more wondrous than TikTok itself. But again, the purpose is to underline the benefits that TikTok brings, in order to dilute opposition to the app more generally. Which, in reality, probably won’t have a lot of impact on its eventual fate.
As noted, TikTok appears to believe that by presenting its platform as a critical element in modern US culture, that this will counter some of the negative perceptions around the app.
In other examples, TikTok launched its $200 million Creator Fund last month, which it quickly upped to $1 billion over three years, and which will provide direct payments for TikTok creators – a major positive at a time when so many jobs are being lost due to COVID-19. On that specific front, TikTok also announced that it plans to add 10,000 US jobs if it’s allowed to stay, while just this week, it launched a new program to assist unsigned musicians in getting their careers off the ground via TikTok clips.
All of these are strong, clear benefits for America. Banning the app would mean turning your back on them.
You don’t want to do that, right (authorities and lawmakers)?
The bottom line, however, is that none of these elements addresses the key issue with TikTok – that it’s intrinsically linked to the Chinese Government, and is required, under Chinese law, to share data with the CCP on request. TikTok has repeatedly noted that this is not the case, but that’s the core issue at hand. And no amount of window dressing will matter if that remains the key point of contention.
TikTok’s new propaganda campaign also overlooks the many concerns with the app.
Last year, TikTok was fined $5.7 billion for illegally collecting data on users under the age of 13 in the US, which the app is under investigation for yet again in France. A recent investigation by The New York Times also found that a third of TikTok’s 49 million daily users in the US are under 14 years of age, with many being well below that, potentially exposing them to adult content.
Add to this concerns around the app’s focus on overly sexualized content, and additional questions about its moderation and even censorship processes, and its fairly clear that TikTok is not exactly a bastion of sweetness and light. It’s not, as TikTok has described, ‘the last sunny corner of the internet‘.
As such, TikTok’s presentation of its app through rose-colored glasses likely won’t be effective in shifting perceptions, at least not in any meaningful way.
But it has to try something, and definitely, there are benefits to the app. They’re just not as significant as TikTok might want to portray – and the app is not, I would suggest, a “ubiquitous part of everyday American life”.
The ad campaign will run till October 12th across the US, in digital media, on TV, radio, and on social platforms.