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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Op-Ed: Education tipline launched by Virginia governor is a slap in the face to teachers

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Op-Ed: Education tipline launched by Virginia governor is a slap in the face to teachers


The first order of business for newly sworn-in Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia was to rescind the mask mandate for public schools.
Source – Virginia Governor Glenn Younglin

A bland-looking email address launched by Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin designed to allow parents to report incidents at Virginia schools where they feel their parental rights are being undermined has created quite a storm on social media.

Much like Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s making neighbors snitches if they think someone is having an abortion, Governor Youngkin is allowing people to go to a website he has created so they can snitch on a teacher, librarian, school board member, and I guess, even the custodian or your child’s bus driver.

The Governor’s Office launched [email protected] with the intent for parents to report violations of his first two Executive Orders, which allow parents to opt their students out of school masking requirements and bans the teaching of “inherently divisive topics” including critical race theory in schools.

It appears that Youngkin went on the John Fredericks Radio Show Monday,  and said during his interview that “… [It’s] for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools.”

The backlash over the order and the tip-line began to build on social media, with celebrities like John Legend and comedian Patton Oswald sharing the address with their followers.

“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced,” Legend wrote on Twitter, referring to the critical race theory ban.

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7News spoke to Oveta Scott, a Prince William County middle school teacher who has spent more than a decade in the classroom.

We are human beings too. We are going through it too,” she said when asked about her reaction to the governor’s new email tip line. ‘Why are you vilifying us and attacking us? What are we doing? We’re trying to stay afloat. We have a shortage of substitutes. We have a shortage of bus drivers. Every day, I have to look for an email to see if I’m covering someone’s class. Every day.”

Nothing but a big distraction by an irresponsible public servant

State Senator Louise Lucas, a Democrat representing the 18th District in the southeast part of the state, said she does not expect the tip-line to lead to much of anything.

“Like a lot of other gimmicks that a lot of other governors have put forward, this one is going to fall flat like a led balloon,” she said, adding that most people she has spoken to see it as an “intimidation” tactic, reports WTVR.com.

“I have never seen a Governor act in such an irresponsible way as to reach down to the parents and by step the teachers, by step the principal, the superintends of school, just to try to intimidate,” Lucas said. “There’s more than just one segment of parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Is he listening to Black parents, Hispanic parents, Asian-American parents? Which parents is he listening to? He needs to listen to all parents. Last I checked, parents in the Commonwealth of Virginia want their children to be safe in school.”

Senator Lucas is letting Governor Youngkin off easy. I personally think Youngkin is taking a page from Texas Governor Abbott’s playbook, because just last week, at the public charter school, Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville, Abbott told hundreds of parents “The essential role of parents is being threatened by government itself.”

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Abbott isn’t relying on a web address for snitches. He wants to change the Texas state constitution to make sure that “parents will be restored to their rightful place as the pre-eminent decision-makers for their children.”

The Governor also told the crowd he wants to toughen penalties against educators, including teachers and librarians who give students inappropriate books. “Texas will ensure that any education personnel who is convicted of providing minors with obscene content will lose their educational credentials and state licensing, forfeits their retirement benefits, and be placed on a do not hire list.”

It is time for all this craziness to come to an end. Good grief – I am getting too old to deal with all this “Bull S—” going on today.



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Instagram Adds Scheduled Live Display on User Profiles to Improve Discovery of Upcoming Streams

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Instagram Adds Scheduled Live Display on User Profiles to Improve Discovery of Upcoming Streams


After previewing it as a coming feature within its announcement of the expansion of remixable videos on the platform last week, Instagram has now outlined its new display of scheduled live streams on creator profiles, providing another way to raise awareness of upcoming live broadcasts in the app.

As you can see in these screenshots, shared by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, the new display option will enable you to list your upcoming IG live streams on your profile, which, when tapped, will provide additional info in a pop-up prompt, where people can also sign-up for a reminder of when the stream is set to begin.

As explained by Mosseri:

“Creators have been able to schedule lives for a while now, but now, you can separate scheduling a live from creating a feed post, or even now a Story post, about that Live. You also get a little badge on your profile that’s lets followers know, or anybody know that goes to your profile, that there’s a Live coming up and they can subscribe to be reminded.”

Mosseri further notes that users can create as many scheduled lives as they like, with a side-scrolling list then added to your profile display.

It could be a handy addition for those who broadcast via IG Live, which could prompt more people to tune in, by raising more awareness about your broadcasts. Up till now, the only way to notify people about your upcoming streams in the app has been, as Mosseri notes, through posts and Stories, which limits the reach of those notifications to, generally, your existing followers. Now, anyone who comes by your profile will be able to see that you have a live broadcast coming up, which could bring in more viewers.

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IG Live has become a key connection surface in the app, particularly throughout the pandemic, and as Instagram looks to expand the option into eCommerce, facilitating more direct engagement between brands and fans, the capacity to map out a more effective IG Live strategy could be a big help in maximizing your on-platform efforts.

It may seem like a relatively small addition in the broader scheme, but it could be a big help in raising awareness, and getting more viewers to your upcoming broadcasts.





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LinkedIn Publishes New Report into Workplace Culture Shifts, and What They Mean for Employer Branding

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LinkedIn Publishes New Report into Workplace Culture Shifts, and What They Mean for Employer Branding


LinkedIn has published a new report into the latest shifts in company and work culture, largely as a result of the pandemic, with many people’s approach to their career and professional development changing amid the ongoing re-shaping of the workforce and place.

As outlined by LinkedIn:

Because of the pandemic, employees are rethinking their priorities and their relationships with employers. They’re seeking flexible work arrangements and more work-life balance. They want to work for employers who value their physical and emotional well-being. And they’re ready to walk away from those who don’t.

LinkedIn’s 67-page ‘Reinvention of Company Culture’ report provides a detailed analysis of these changing attitudes and approaches, and how businesses can look to cater to employee needs, in order to build a better work environment.

The report looks at how people’s approach to their work is changing, particularly in regards to who they work for, and what they both represent and provide.

As you can see in this graphic, company culture is becoming a much bigger consideration, which is arguably because we now have more insight than ever into what each company represents, via social media posts and profiles. That underlines the importance of brands managing their external perception, and building a strong employer brand, which could also include empowering their employees to share relevant updates, reinforcing culture and ethos.

The report also looks at the changing approach to workplace flexibility, which is fast becoming a must-have for many organizations.

LinkedIn workplace trends report

The pandemic has shown that many companies can, in fact, operate remotely, and many employees have found that the freedom that can bring affords them many lifestyle benefits, which they’re not so willing to give up by returning to the office full-time.

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Of course, that varies. Some people like the structure and organization of the office environment, along with the social benefits, and there are strong arguments to be made for both approaches. But the stats here, and included in the report, point to the potential value of incorporating more flexible working arrangements.

Employee well-being is another point of focus, with interest in the topic on the rise:

LinkedIn workplace trends report

Which is another valuable element to this report – in addition to the overall notes on workplace shifts, LinkedIn has also incorporated data on key platform posting trends, which could help to inform your own strategy.

LinkedIn workplace trends report

Clearly, there is significant, and rising interest in these elements, and it’s worth considering how you can integrate such, both in terms of how you evolve your own workplace models to cater to such demand, and how you represent the same in your external posts and updates.

There are some valuable notes here, and some interesting points to consider in the coming post-pandemic shift. Because we’re not there just yet, with newer COVID variants still parking new waves of concern, and subsequent mitigation efforts. But as we progress towards the next stage, it is worth noting the broader impacts that the COVID shift has had on work, and how prospective employees are now looking at job postings and companies in their job search efforts.

Your social media presence can play a big role in this, and your LinkedIn presence in particular, and it’s worth taking in the various trends and considering what they could mean for your brand.

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You can read LinkedIn’s full ‘Reinvention of Company Culture’ report here.



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