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

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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.

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.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Florida lawmakers push to ban social media for children under 16

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Vietnam plans to ask all social media users on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to verify their identities

Social media. — © AFP/File Olivier DOULIERY

Florida moved Thursday towards enacting what would be one of the strictest bans on children’s use of social media in the United States after the state Senate passed a bill to keep those under 16 off such platforms.

The controversial bill seeks to protect children’s mental health against the “addictive features” of such platforms, amid fears over online dangers including from sexual predators, cyber bullying and teen suicide.

The legislation, which was approved 23-14, will now go back to the state House. It has already passed there, with the House speaker championing the legislation, but changes made in the Senate need to be approved in the lower chamber.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has expressed concerns over whether banning social media for children under the age of 16 violates parents’ rights – Copyright AFP Philip FONG

It would then have to be signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has expressed skepticism about the legislation. Similar efforts by other states have previously been blocked by courts.

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Erin Grall, told the Florida Senate on Thursday.

But DeSantis, who has previously said he is sympathetic to fears over the impact of social media on children, voiced concerns about parental rights.

“A parent has the right to opt in,” he told a press conference Thursday.

The governor has argued many times that parents should have more control over decisions affecting their children, particularly in education.

Under DeSantis Florida has passed laws to curtail teaching about sex education and gender identity in schools and to eradicate diversity programs in state-funded universities.

Scores of books have been removed from the state’s school library shelves in recent months, deemed inappropriate for children by conservative parents and school boards.

Some critics say such a law targeting social media use would violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Last year a federal judge blocked an Arkansas initiative that sought to require parental consent to open a social media account.

Most social media networks already have a minimum age of 13 to open an account, though they do little to ensure compliance with the provision.

If the regulation is approved, the platforms will have to block children under the age of 16 from creating accounts and close those already opened.

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today’s Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today's Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Massive cell phone outages across America are being reported today by customers of AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Boost Mobile, US Cellular, and Straight Talk Wireless, according to data from Downdetector, an online platform that monitors connectivity. That story and more news you need to read today, inside.

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

Meta has announced that it’s finally expanding access to its Creator Marketplace tool, which will give more businesses the capacity to search for creators to work with on their Instagram campaigns.

Meta first launched its Creator Marketplace back in 2022, enabling U.S.-based brands to search and connect with relevant platform influencers based on a range of qualifiers, including focus topics, follower counts, location, etc.

And now, businesses in the following regions will also be able to access the tool:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • India
  • Brazil

In addition to this, Meta also says that Chinese export brands will also be invited to connect with onboarded creators in countries outside of China.

Which is interesting, considering Meta’s tenuous history with the CCP’s “Great Firewall”, but the deal here relates to Chinese businesses operating in regions outside of their homeland, which is somewhat separate to Meta’s internal dealings.

In addition to expanding access, Meta’s also rolling new machine learning-based recommendations within Creator Marketplace, which will use Instagram data to help brands more easily discover creators who are the best fit for their campaigns.

Instagram Creator Marketplace

As you can see in this example, the new recommendations will highlight accounts that have strong engagement rates in your niche, have mentioned your brand in the past, or have produced good results for similar businesses.

That could make it easier to find the right fit, or at the least, to give you more options to consider in your process.

Branded Content collaborations can be highly effective on IG, by using the established expertise and experience of creators who have already built a following in the app, and know what works, to boost your promotions.

By working with the right creators, with connection to your target audience, you can secure valuable endorsement within key communities, which can help to germinate your branding in the right communities.

Brands can check out Instagram’s creator marketplace in Meta Business Suite, with access coming to these new regions shortly.



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