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TikTok Refutes Claims Made Against it in White House Executive Order as it Pushes to Remain in the US



So what’s the latest on the TikTok takeover situation?

I’m glad you asked – this week, as negotiations continue over the sale of TikTok to an Oracle/Walmart lead consortium, which it’s worth noting has not been officially agreed to as yet. While those discussions continue, TikTok continued to combat the US Government’s Executive Order, which could still see the app banned entirely in the US if a deal isn’t reached by November 12th.

To re-cap:

  • The White House issued an EO on August 6th which would see TikTok banned in the US within 45 days if it did not separate itself from its Chinese roots
  • On September 19th, a day before the ban would take effect, TikTok announced significant progress in a takeover deal. The US Department of Commerce then granted TikTok an extension, giving it till September 27th to finalize the details of the takeover, or it would face removal from the US app store.
  • On September 27th, just hours before TikTok’s app store ban was set to take effect, the company won an appeal against the White House EO, avoid a ban.
  • The court has now set a November 4th hearing date for a follow-up on the TikTok ban in the US app store – while TikTok has till November 12th to finalize details of its full sell-off to a US-based company, or it’ll face a complete ban in the US. 

So, TikTok could still be removed from the US app store within weeks, and could still face a full ban in the US. Which is what the platform is now arguing against.

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TikTok’s counter to the White House EO is that, essentially, it’s based on incorrect information and assumptions, and that none of the actual claims listed are true.

In a supplemental declaration, TikTok’s chief security officer Roland Cloutier says that:

  • TikTok’s infrastructure is ‘entirely separate from the software stack comprising the Douyin application’, so TikTok and it’s Chinese variation are not linked.
  • TikTok does not lease servers from China Unicom, a potential vulnerability identified by the US, and US user data is encrypted, so it couldn’t be accessed via this method anyway 
  • A report which claimed that TikTok’s source code shows that it could be sharing data with China is based on outdated code references, which are no longer used in the application
  • Importantly, Cloutier also notes that TikTok “would not comply with a request for US user data from the Chinese Government. “To date, there has never been a request from the Chinese Government for tikTok user data”.

Cloutier’s statements reinforce what many have previously noted, that the White House EO is based on assumptions and media reports, but not on hard evidence. Even if TikTok does share data with the CCP, there’s no actual evidence of such, and if it does use its platform to reinforce communist propaganda, there’s no definitive proof that this is occurring. 

There are various reports of concerns with TikTok’s moderation guidelines, rumors of anti-China censorship, concerns around how its algorithm operates. But in a legal sense, there’s nothing binding – there’s no evidence, at least nothing available to the public, which would add weight to the claims made in the White House EO. 

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Which is why TikTok hasn’t been removed from US app stores yet, and why it may never be removed, even if the Trump Administration wins re-election, and seeks to push harder on getting the app into US hands. 

Which could still happen, but more and more reports around the proposed Oracle/Walmart deal suggest that TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance will retain control of the app, which the US Government has said will not be good enough.

But if ByteDance also knows that it will win any legal appeal, maybe it won’t be pushing as hard to sell – maybe, by appealing the case, and seeking a longer stay of execution, the company is hoping to hold on till after the US election, when the situation could look significantly different for the app.

And increasingly, it’s looking like the TikTok EO was more of a move to punish China, which US President Donald Trump has straight-up acknowledged. 

In July, President Trump noted that he wanted to remove TikTok in the US as part of retaliatory measures for the spread of COVID-19. 

“It’s a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful.”

At that time, India had announced its ban of TikTok, and all Chinese apps, due to ongoing conflicts with the Chinese military, while just weeks before this statement, TikTok users had reportedly ruined a Trump rally in Oklahoma by massively inflating ticket demand, which left Trump’s team embarrassed at the small turnout.

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It’s possible that these elements may have also played into Trump’s push to ban the app, but as we’re now seeing, that drive may well lack the evidence to actually get through, and TikTok, after everything, may remain entirely unchanged.

So what’s the end result? We’ll have to wait and see if TikTok does get sold off, but even if it doesn’t, the impact could be zero. Despite all the media coverage, the court cases, despite all the focus on the app over the past few months, TikTok could still be in US app stores in late December, owned by China’s ByteDance, growing its user base.

It seems surprising, given all the negotiations and executive changes and speculation. But TikTok, as it has said, may well be here to stay, as it always was.

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Meta’s Developing the World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer to Fuel its Metaverse Vision



Meta's Developing the World's Fastest AI Supercomputer to Fuel its Metaverse Vision

As it looks to a future in the currently theoretical ‘metaverse’, Meta will need to up its computing power and systems in order to facilitate simultaneous connection in wholly immersive digital worlds, while it’ll also need more advanced computing power to fuel the next stage of its AI plans, in various forms.

Which is why Meta is developing a new AI Research SuperCluster (RSC), which it says will eventually become the fastest AI supercomputer in the world, when it’s fully built out by mid-2022.

The advanced system will eventually be able to perform ‘5 exaflops of mixed precision compute’ at peak. Which, I have no real idea of what that truly means, but basically, Meta’s new, advanced computational system will be able to process huge amounts of data, facilitating development in a wide range of applications, with a specific view towards the next stage of its metaverse vision.

As explained by Meta:

RSC will help Meta’s AI researchers build new and better AI models that can learn from trillions of examples; work across hundreds of different languages; seamlessly analyze text, images, and video together; develop new augmented reality tools; and much more. We hope RSC will help us build entirely new AI systems that can, for example, power real-time voice translations to large groups of people, each speaking a different language, so they can seamlessly collaborate on a research project or play an AR game together.”

AR is clearly a key focus, with Meta developing its own AR-enabled glasses that will expand the use cases for the technology. The RSC will provide increased capacity to develop more complex AR systems, which could advance Meta’s tools beyond what’s currently available, which would ideally see its AR glasses become the top of the line, most advanced model available, helping Meta potentially dominate the space over rivals Snapchat and Apple.

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Unless, of course, Snap and Apple team up, which is my prediction. But even so, with the additional computing power of the RSC behind it, Meta could still be well ahead, which could be a key step in bridging our current online experience to the next stage.

Which is where Meta is really focused:

“Ultimately, the work done with RSC will pave the way toward building technologies for the next major computing platform – the metaverse, where AI-driven applications and products will play an important role.

It’s worth noting here that Meta specifically notes that the metaverse will take years to develop, it’s not something that’s happening overnight, nor will it become an all-immersive, integrated world by next year. Which is why any company or project that’s pitching itself as ‘metaverse ready’ is kidding itself – the metaverse, as it’s broadly envisioned, will require massive collaboration between platforms, in order to transfer your digital identity between virtual worlds, and take your avatars, skins, digital items, and more with you.

Meta is keen to reiterate that it won’t own that space, as such:

No one company can (or should) build the metaverse alone. It will be built by people and businesses all over the world. And it’ll be important that experiences built by different companies or people, like avatars or virtual worlds, work together.

But really, Meta is best-placed to host the party, via its industry-leading consumer VR tools and advanced computing systems like RSC, which will give it a significant advantage in dictating what the metaverse will be, and who will be able to sign up.

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Eventually, this will require industry agreement on schemas and systems that will likely enable any service to join. But they’ll still need a host platform, along with software/hardware connection. Meta will be at the forefront of that aspect, which, again, will see it well-placed to define the rules of the space, and dominate the next stage of digital connection – whether it technically ‘owns’ it or not.

But it is worth noting that the metaverse does not exist yet, not in any form, and any platform or project that claims otherwise is ultimately misleading. Those NFT projects that claim to be ‘metaverse-ready’, yeah, no, maybe avoid them.

Eventually, Meta’s RSC will give it significant advantages in developing new systems for everything from combating harmful content on its platforms to building entirely new user experiences. The potential here is massive, and while it will take time to see the results of these developments, it’ll be interesting to see how Meta’s processes evolve in turn, and whether these advanced systems result in a significant acceleration in its development cycles.

You can read more technical details on Meta’s RSC project here.

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TikTok Partners with Zefr to Offer Increased Assurance on Safe Ad Placement



TikTok Partners with Zefr to Offer Increased Assurance on Safe Ad Placement

TikTok has partnered with brand suitability platform Zefr on a new brand safety post-bid measurement solution for in-feed ads, which will enable advertisers to ensure that their TikTok promotions don’t appear alongside potentially offensive material.

As you can see here, using Zefr’s dashboard, which provides insights into each campaign by mapping it against the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) Suitability Risk categories, advertisers will now be able to ensure that their TikTok ads are not shown next to content that they don’t want to be associated with.

As explained by TikTok:

“This solution will provide advertisers with campaign insights into brand safety and brand suitability for their TikTok campaigns. These insights provide clients with third-party impartial reassurance that their investment is delivered next to content suitable for their brand, protecting brand reputation and mitigating risk.”

Zefr’s advanced ‘Cognition AI’ process utilizes audio, text, and frame-by-frame video analysis, along with scaled human review, to determine brand safety, and provide full assurance on potential ad placement.

With TikTok’s challenges and posts sometimes veering into dangerous territory, the option will help to reassure brands that their campaigns won’t end up being associated with potential harm, which could help TikTok secure even more ad spend.

Though it could be difficult to 100% guarantee success here. For example, the recent ‘Milk Crate Challenge’ on TikTok started off innocently enough, but eventually lead to increasingly risky and dangerous behaviors, which resulted in serious injuries to some participants. Other TikTok challenges could follow a similar evolution – though the additional assurance of Zefr’s systems will ideally help to catch these out before they become a potential brand risk, or at the least, as soon as they’re identified as a problem.

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It’s a good integration, and another key step in TikTok’s broader expansion of its ad tools.

The new TikTok Zefr integration is available to advertisers in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

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How to Elevate Your Social Media ROI [Infographic]



How to Elevate Your Social Media ROI [Infographic]

Looking for ways to improve your social media marketing efforts in 2022?

As we head into the new year, it’s worth revising your business goals, and establishing a clear direction for your digital marketing process. Maybe you’re happy with the growth and interaction you’re seeing, and how that’s then leading to conversion, but over the past two years, in particular, there’s no doubt been some level of disruption to your marketing plans.

With that in mind, this infographic from the team at Click Dimensions could help. They’ve put together a simple overview of how to establish your social media marketing goals, including which metrics to focus on, how to increase engagement, and the importance of adapting as things progress.

It could help to spark some new thinking in your approach – check out the full infographic below.

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