Connect with us


TikTok Employee Plans Legal Action Against US Government, New Insights Highlight Concerns About Younger Users



All’s quiet on the TikTok acquisition front, with Microsoft still looking like the leading contender to potentially acquire the short-form video app

But even so, TikTok still has a range of other concerns to deal with, as more investigations and reports highlight issues of note with the app.

Here’s a quick round-up of some of the key TikTok stories, aside from its potential ban in the US, from this week:

TikTok Employees Versus US Government

While TikTok has said that the US Government’s executive order to force the sale of its US operations was “issued without any due process”, and may lead to a legal challenge as a result, this week, a TikTok employee has also decided to take on the US Government over it’s EO, in an effort to save the jobs of Americans who work for the platform.

As reported by Protocol:

“On Tuesday night, [TikTok employee Patrick] Ryan launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a legal battle over the Trump administration’s recent executive order, which prohibits “any transaction by any person” with TikTok owner ByteDance beginning Sept. 20. Ryan, who describes himself as a “recovering lawyer,” argues that such an order would prohibit his employer from paying him and more than 1,400 other TikTok U.S. employees, thereby violating his constitutional right to due process.”

Some legal experts have said that this approach will not work, and that there are limited grounds to challenge an Executive Order, especially when The President invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which relates to national security threats. But it’s another wrinkle in the messy TikTok dispute, which has elements of xenophobia and paranoia, mixed in with genuine security concerns. 

It’s difficult to tell which is the more powerful driving force in this case.

A Third of TikTok Users are Under 14

Meanwhile, The New York Times has gotten hold of an internal report from TikTok which highlights a particularly concerning element.

As per NYT:

“In July, TikTok classified more than a third of its 49 million daily users in the United States as being 14 years old or younger

So, two things – one, TikTok, according to this data, has 49 million daily active users in the US. For context, Snapchat has 90 million North American DAU. Twitter has 36m daily actives in America.

And while TikTok hasn’t released any official user counts, this also aligns with TikTok’s recent note that it has 100 million active users in the US. So, we can assume, based on this, that TikTok has 100m MAU and 49m DAU in America. Which is a lot, and as you can see, it holds up to comparison to other social apps. But it is worth noting in variance to the often-cited total download stats for the app, which are not an indicator of usage.

But the bigger concern here is obviously the very young demographic skew of the app. According to data obtained by NYT, 18 million TikTok users in the US are under 14, with former employees also noting that many are significantly younger, and are getting around the app’s age limiting access tools.

As you may recall, in February last year, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance settled on a record $5.7 million fine from the FTC over claims that it had illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13.  

Given that children still make up such a significant proportion of the app’s user base, various concerns still remain in this respect, and TikTok will need to show that it’s able to protect these younger users, and their personally identifying data, in order to avoid future complications around the same.

There was also this concerning note in the NYT’s report:   

“TikTok does not rely only on users’ self-reported dates of birth to categorize them into age groups. It also estimates their ages using other methods, including facial recognition algorithms that scrutinize profile pictures and videos, said two former TikTok employees and one current employee, who declined to be identified because details of the company’s practices are confidential.”

So TikTok’s also taking in scans of young people’s faces, which, potentially, could be shared with the Chinese Government. 

Ideally, that changes if/when TikTok is US-owned – but then again, it may still collect the same data, even if it’s not shared with the CCP. 

It’s another element for Microsoft to analyze within its due diligence – which it’s conducting under a significant time constraint, especially for a multi-billion dollar deal.

French Officials Open Investigation into TikTok’s Data Practices

On another front, French officials have this week announced a new investigation into TikTok’s data-gathering practices, due, again, to concerns around its measures to protect younger users.

As per Bloomberg:

“The French authority, CNIL, is looking at a number of issues, including how the company communicates with users and the protection of children, a spokesman said Tuesday. The questions are part of an investigation into TikTok’s plan to set up a European Union headquarters for data purposes.”

European Union officials pledged back in June to conduct a more thorough investigation into TikTok’s processes before giving final approval for the company’s plan to establish a European data center in Ireland. As such, this investigation is mostly procedural – yet even so, it’s another pressure lever for the platform, which is facing intense scrutiny on several fronts. 

And if TikTok is not, eventually, approved by EU officials, that could have significant ramifications in other regions.

ByteDance Found to Have Censored Anti-Chinese Sentiment in Another App

And the final TikTok-related news of note from this week is that TikTok parent company ByteDance has reportedly been censoring anti-China sentiment in its Indonesian news aggregation app Baca Berita – or ‘BaBe’ as it’s more commonly known.

As reported by Reuters:

“Chinese tech giant ByteDance censored content it perceived as critical of the Chinese government on its news aggregator app in Indonesia from 2018 to mid-2020, six people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

So it’s been happening up till recently. In response, BaBe acknowledged that it had censored some content, but its regulations were changed in 2019. It did not comment on more recent findings of the same.

Yet, even if it has changed, the concern still remains that ByteDance has, at different times, instructed moderators of its apps to remove anti-China sentiment, which could essentially turn its apps into propaganda tools for the CCP.   

TikTok moderators were also, at one stage at least, removing anti-China content, but they too have since updated their guidelines. There had been some suggestion, too, that TikTok was filtering out content related to the Hong Kong protests late last year, though no definitive evidence has been found to support these claims.

Yet, even so, in its Executive Order calling for the sell-off of the platform, the US Government noted that:

TikTok also reportedly censors content that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive, such as content concerning protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.  This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Which brings us back to the first point, and why TikTok has threatened legal action over the Order. Essentially, TikTok says that these claims are unfounded, and as such, do not constitute legal grounds for a ban. 

As you can see, there are various elements at play, and while the concern over how TikTok works for, and can be utilized by, the Chinese Government remains, so too will the scrutiny.

Though even if TikTok is to be sold off, the amount of younger users in the app is also a key concern.

The roller coaster ride continues on.


Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments



Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

Twitter has taken its next steps towards facilitating payments in the app, with The Financial Times reporting that the company has begun applying for regulatory licenses in US states, the next legal requirement for providing payment services in the app.

Payments, which Elon Musk has a long history in, could be another way for Twitter to generate revenue, by enabling transactions between users, from which it would then take a small percentage. Musk has repeatedly flagged his vision for payments as part of his broader push to make Twitter into an ‘everything app’, which would provide more functionality and usage benefits.  

As reported by FT:

In November, Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor, according to a regulatory filing. It has now also begun to apply for some of the state licenses it would need in order to launch, these people said. The remainder would be filed shortly, in the hope that US licensing was completed within a year, one of the people said.”

From there, Twitter would also look to establish agreements with international regulators to enable payments in all regions.

As noted, payments are a part of Elon’s broader plans for a more functional app, which would replicate the utility of China’s WeChat, which is used by Chinese citizens for everything from ordering groceries, to buying public transport tickets, to paying bills, etc. WeChat has become such a crucial connective element, that it formed a key part of China’s COVID response, with authorities using the app as a means to manage COVID positive citizens and restrict their movement.

Musk isn’t ideally looking to use Twitter as a control device (I don’t think), but the broader concept is to add in more and more functionality, in order to both generate more income for the company, and make the app a more critical element in the interactive landscape.

Twitter’s already exploring several options on this front.

Several app researchers have uncovered mock-ups for Twitter Coins in the back-end of the app.

Via Twitter coins, users would be able to make donations to creators in the app, through on-profile tipping, but beyond that, Twitter’s also exploring options like unlockable tweets, paywalled video, and more, as it seeks to embed broader usage and adoption of in-app payments.

A big opportunity also exists to facilitate remittance, or sending money to family and friends, which is a key use case in many regions. Remittance payment services often charge processing fees, and various social apps have been trying to find new ways to facilitate such without the same costs, with the idea being that once people are moving their money in-app, they’ll then be more likely to spend it in the same place.

Thus far, social platforms that do offer payments haven’t been able to embed this as a use case – but maybe, with Musk’s experience, knowledge and connections, he might be able to make this work in tweets.

Elon, of course, got his start in payments, with his first company, an online bank called, being bought out by PayPal in 1999, his first big business win. And while his focus has since shifted to electric cars and rockets, Musk has keen understanding of the digital payments space, and how it can be adapted for varied usage.

According to reports, Musk told Twitter investors in May last year, that his aim was to see Twitter bring in about $1.3 billion in payment revenues by 2028.

That would give the company a sorely needed boost. After Musk’s cost-cutting efforts, which have resulted in the reduction of around 70% of Twitter staff, the company could be on track to potentially break even this year, or close, but a lot has to go right to get the platform back on track. And with advertisers continuing to back away from Twitter spend, it’s not looking good, while subscriptions to Twitter Blue are unlikely to provide much relief, at least at this stage.

As such, the shift into payments can’t come fast enough, though it’ll still be some time before we see the possibility of in-app payments.

Also, while Musk has made it clear fiat currency will be the main focus of this push in its initial phase, cryptocurrencies could also, eventually, be included. The price of Dogecoin, Musk’s favorite crypto offering, rose to a 24-hour high after news broke of Elon’s expanded payments plan.

Will payments be the answer to Twitter’s revenue woes? Maybe, if Elon’s vision for billions in payments revenue comes to fruition – and with his previous track record, you can’t dismiss the notion entirely.

But it’ll take time, many approvals, and many more steps before we reach the next stage.

Source link

Continue Reading


Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing



Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

Chief Growth Officer (CGO) at HypeFactory, a global influencer marketing agency.

It’s no secret that influencer marketing popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, and partnering with influencers isn’t a new concept. Just over the past year, the industry was valued at $16.4 billion and still keeps growing, with a whopping revenue forecast of $143.10 billion in 2030.

Since the beginning of influencer marketing, people have talked about how influencers and social responsibility fit together. It stands to reason that influential people would use their large fan bases to help others. However, when influencers and businesses collaborate, they each have specific responsibilities to the communities in which they operate.

Sponsorship Transparency And Gender Stereotypes

One of the most critical skills for an influencer is honesty. Influencers base their marketing strategy on being genuine and sharing personal tales and thoughts with their target audience. They are not celebrities living in a bubble of fame that very few of their followers will ever reach; instead, they live lifestyles that are reachable and use items that their viewers would find helpful. This approach has significantly contributed to their immense level of success.

However, many influencers don’t play by the rules, especially when it comes to impressing brands they’ve made deals with, even though transparency is essential to the sustainability of an influencer’s career. Because of this, many people would think that the most important ethical issue in influencer marketing is sponsorship disclosure.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom have all put out rules about how influencers should be honest in their posts and about their relationships with brands. If you disobey the regulations, you risk facing penalties, fines and legal bills. You also risk losing the trust of your customers for good.

Moreover, when doing influencer marketing, it’s essential to consider gender stereotypes and how people usually think men and women will act in different situations. The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has said that since June 2019, marketing materials could no longer show men and women in ways that are based on stereotypes. These rules state that ads “must not use gender stereotypes that are likely to hurt or offend a large number of people.” Great campaigns, like Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” have challenged gender preconceptions.

Improving Influencer Marketing’s Reliability And Authenticity

Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.

Based on my experience as a chief growth officer at a global influencer marketing agency, here are some things brands must consider for influencer partnerships that are authentic and reliable.

Outline—and stick to—the ethical principles that your brand stands for.

Before you can begin your search for the ideal influencers, you must first understand the core principles of representing your business. Most businesses start by determining their values and ethics early on. They then use these to build their brand identity. It’s up to each company’s brand to decide where they will draw the line and how they will show their core values on social media.

However, consumers place a high value on consistent honesty. Customers are likely to call out your company for being hypocritical if it says it wants to fight racism but then partners with an influencer who has a history of making small slights against people of color. Or if your company promotes equal pay yet pays female influencers less than it does male influencers, contributing to the continuation of the pay gap between male and female influencers.

As a result, you will likely lose the trust of these customers.

Collaborate with real influencers.

One of the most effective ways to stick to influencer marketing principles is by collaborating with real-life influencers. Choosing the right influencers is crucial for building consumer confidence in your product.

Determine which influencers are authentic and have credibility with your intended audience. Specifically, it would be best to look at how many people engage with their content and how good it is. Even though engagement numbers are essential, they only tell part of the story about an influencer’s reliability. Please pay close attention to their writing style, the brands they’ve worked with, the accuracy of their reviews, etc.

Develop a long-term partnership.

When you’ve found a group of genuine, influential people with whom you can collaborate successfully, it’s crucial to keep in touch with them over time. Even if they are paid to review a product, genuine influencers always give honest opinions. Because they follow all the rules, the spectator can have more faith in them.

Consequently, after a shortlist of influencers has been compiled, you should perform authenticity checks. Check their content feed for branded articles. Make sure that any disclaimers you find adhere to the first point’s disclosure guidelines. Consistently partnering with the same influencers demonstrates to customers that you value their brand’s success just as much as they do, which can increase consumer confidence in your business.


Authenticity serves as the cornerstone of the influencer marketing strategy. Influencers earn the trust of their followers and become successful when they always provide high-quality, authentic, relatable content.

In addition to the concerns over the morality of influencer marketing, brands and influencers must follow the criteria established by the FTC and the community guidelines and terms of service based on social media platforms. You can shield your brand from potential ethical and legal difficulties and still enjoy success with influencer marketing if you are aware of the expectations and follow certain best practices.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

Source link

Continue Reading


Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]



Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

Looking to give your social profiles a visual refresh for the new year?

This could help – the team from Giraffe Social Media recently put together an overview of the whys and hows of building your brand via your social profile visuals.

There are some good notes here – a key consideration is consistency, which ensures that you’re building your brand with every post and update.

Check out the full infographic below.

Source link

Continue Reading