Count­down for TikTok­ers as video craze faces US ban

Chi­nese-owned site has 45 days to find a buyer or feel the wrath of Trump, says Michael Cog­ley

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce -

For mil­lions of young peo­ple, post­ing on TikTok has be­come a way of life. Now, the threat of a com­plete ban of the app in the US has left many in tur­moil.

“I re­ally hope this doesn’t hap­pen. All the videos, all the mem­o­ries, this can’t be true. I’m go­ing to miss you all,” the singer An­dra Go­gan told her 5.2 mil­lion fol­low­ers.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has given TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, six weeks to ar­range a sale of its US op­er­a­tions or face a ban amid con­cerns Chi­nese own­er­ship poses a se­cu­rity threat – some­thing TikTok has de­nied.

A cam­paign called #SaveTikTok has since be­gun trend­ing on the vi­ral video site af­ter Michael Le, who has 35.7 mil­lion fol­low­ers, sought to mount the re­sis­tance from within.

“2020 has had so many tragedies and TikTok has been one of the most pos­i­tive out­lets for us all,” he said.

“Al­though it has had its flaws, this one app has cre­ated a com­mu­nity of peo­ple from all over the world that’s been able to bring joy and in­spire peo­ple. It’s been able to give me the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port my fam­ily and have my voice.” Le is one of thou­sands of users that have ac­crued mas­sive fol­low­ings on the app and are scarper­ing to pro­tect their new­found in­come.

With 800 mil­lion users glob­ally and two bil­lion down­loads, TikTok has gar­nered wide­spread ap­peal through its lip-sync­ing and dance videos, and a for­mi­da­ble ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence al­go­rithm that feeds fans an end­less stream of short videos.

It has be­come a cash cow for in­flu­encers. Cre­ators with more than two mil­lion fol­low­ers are es­ti­mated to earn around £25,000 each year through brand deals. The high­est-paid star is 15-year-old Charli D’Ame­lio, with 74.8 mil­lion fol­low­ers, who earns more than £37,000 per post.

En­gage­ment rates on TikTok videos are much higher than those paid for on the likes of In­sta­gram and Twit­ter, ac­cord­ing to the In­flu­encer Mar­ket­ing Hub. The data an­a­lyt­ics firm said that paid-for posts with users on more than 100,000 fol­low­ers can re­sult in al­most five-times more click-throughs than other so­cial me­dia sites.

Fur­ther­more, Max Beau­mont, who built a fol­low­ing on TikTok doc­u­ment­ing his jour­ney of self­im­prove­ment, says TikToker suc­cess on other plat­forms isn’t guar­an­teed.

TikTok has be­come “fun­da­men­tally an es­cape for a gen­er­a­tion right now in iso­la­tion, es­pe­cially, that needs it,” Beau­mont says.

“Just be­cause you can have a mas­sive fol­low­ing on some­thing like TikTok doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late over to YouTube or to In­sta­gram”.

Should a ban be in­tro­duced, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may find it tricky to deal with in­dus­tri­ous Gen Z users who have fig­ured out work­arounds. Per­haps one of the most com­mon will be the use of vir­tual pri­vate net­works, or VPNs, where users can mas­quer­ade their lo­ca­tion as though they’re log­ging in from some­where else.

Amer­i­can TikToker Carew Elling­ton, who has 429,000 fol­low­ers, has en­cour­aged users to change their “gen­eral lan­guage and re­gion” set­tings to Canada, in or­der to ac­cess the app.

Such mea­sures might not be needed if TikTok is bought by a US com­pany. Many TikTok users cheered Mi­crosoft as a white knight. In one video, a user blew kisses in front of a back­drop of Mi­crosoft co-founder Bill Gates. Re­ports say other West­ern com­pa­nies are also in­ter­ested in TikTok.

But with 45 days to agree a deal that would please Trump, the fu­ture of the app’s users re­mains far from cer­tain.

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