TikTok may be the fastest-growing app in India, but it has been caught in a storm lately.
It all started with Indian YouTuber CarryMinati’s video pitching short-form content creation on TikTok versus long-form videos on YouTube. In a viral video titled ‘YouTube vs TikTok: The End’, the popular YouTuber, who has 18 million subscribers, called out TikTok creators for plagiarising content from YouTube, among other things.
YouTube was eventually forced to take down the video as a social media war erupted between TikTok fans and YouTubers. Not only has the incident polarised social media, it has also severely impacted TikTok’s app store ratings.
In less than a week, the app has been downrated from 4.6 to 2, with several Indian users calling for a ban and trending #TikTokBan and #TikTokExposed on social media. TikTok Lite has been hit even more, with its Play Store ratings dropping to 1.1. The ByteDance-owned platform is also under fire for its weak content moderation policies, which allows sharing of harmful and abusive videos.
Many TikTok influencers have invited the wrath of social media users for promoting acid attack on women, rape, misogyny, and other problematic content. Some of these videos go on to record more than a million views, thus amplifying the root problem.
National Commission of Women Chairman Rekha Sharma has called the Indian government for a complete ban on TikTok for promoting objectionable content and leaving a negative impact on the youth.
“I am of the strong opinion that this @TikTok_IN should be banned totally and will be writing to GOI. It not only has these objectionable videos but [is] also pushing youngsters towards [an] unproductive life where they are living only for few followers,” she wrote in a tweet this morning.
YourStory reached out to TikTok India for an official statement on the recent turn of events. It is yet to hear from the company.
TikTok’s old problem
Interestingly, this is not the first time that TikTok has courted controversy. The app, which crossed two billion global downloads last month, has traditionally been criticised for promoting videos that are reckless and created in pursuit of ‘virality’.
In the past, TikTok has also invited bans from Indian courts, the last of which came in April 2019. However, it continued to grow uninterrupted as hordes of first-time internet users across demographies thronged to the video creation app.
In Q1 2020, TikTok recorded the best quarter for any app ever with over 315 million downloads across App Store and Google Play Store, according to Sensor Tower. India is TikTok’s largest market globally, with more than 200 million users.
But, with popularity comes responsibility.
In a prior interaction with YourStory, Sachin Sharma, Director – Sales and Partnership, TikTok India, shared, “The safety of users is a key priority for us. We are committed towards maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment for users along with abiding by and complying with local laws. TikTok in no way endorses or promotes content that is in violation of its comprehensive Community Guidelines, including harm to self or others. So, we have put in place protective measures by combining content moderation technology with a robust human moderation team.”
“In India, the moderation team covers major regional languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, etc,” he added.
Despite TikTok’s audacious claims, the needle has hardly moved on that front. Users continue to chase virality by sharing content that qualifies as “problematic”.
TikTok recently roped in Disney’s Head of Streaming Kevin Mayer as its new CEO. Mayer will also serve as the COO of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company.
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