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TikTok Responds to Possible US Ban: “We’re Not Planning on Going Anywhere”



Are we close to saying goodbye to TikTok?

On Friday evening, speaking to the press pool, US President Donald Trump said that TikTok would soon be banned in the US, sparking an outpouring of emotional responses from the app’s users, and a major surge in downloads of alternate video apps.

The speculation prompted a response from TikTok, with US General Manager Vanessa Pappas posting this video message:

TikTok additionally issued this official response:

These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic. We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US. Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”

This is in line with TikTok’s more recent push to underline its benefit to the US economy – at a time when jobs are shrinking due to the impacts of COVID-19, TikTok is looking to invest, it’s looking to build while most are doing the opposite. The US Government can’t say no to that, right? 

But then again, the proposed ban is not about that – the Trump administration is either concerned about potential spying by the Chinese Government, or its looking to enact a form of punishment against China for the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Which is the bigger consideration is something of a moot point, as the outcome is largely the same, but it is interesting to note the various elements at play within the wider debate around the app’s future.

There are also a couple of key notes worth highlighting in TikTok’s statement. First off, as per TikTok itself, the platform currently sees around 100 million active users. That’s a significant amount, but the figure that you more commonly see presented in relation to TikTok is total downloads. TikTok reached 2 billion total downloads earlier this year, but it’s worth pointing out that total downloads and total users are completely different things. Downloads, in some ways, reflect popularity, but 100 million active users is far less than Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Even Vine had double that amount at its peak.

TikTok is growing, and it is significant, but the impression many have is that it’s bigger than it is due to the focus on total download stats. This is a relevant note in measuring its cultural impact.

But the most important thing to take away from TikTok’s statement is this:

TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access.”

What TikTok doesn’t, and can’t say: “TikTok user data cannot be accessed by the Chinese Government”.

TikTok can’t say this, because it can be – under China’s cybersecurity laws, the CCP can request internal data from any Chinese-owned company for the benefit of the republic. TikTok can’t escape this, which is why it’s being put under pressure to separate its operations from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance – which, following Trump’s threat to ban it, it is now willing to do. It’s unclear if that will appease the Trump administration enough to allow it to keep running in the US.

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As noted, it’s also unclear exactly what the main purpose of Trump’s ban threat is. Earlier this month, Trump said that he was considering banning TikTok as a form of punishment against China for COVID-19.

As per Trump:

“[TikTok is] 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.”

Trump said that banning TikTok was one of “many options” that he was considering to hit back at Beijing over what he perceives as a failure on its part to contain the virus. In which case, it’s not even about the company’s Chinese Government links – though US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has additionally noted that any move to ban the app would be in order “to deny the Chinese Communist Party access to the private information that belongs to Americans”.

Some have speculated that Trump’s latest threat is actually a bullying tactic – as per Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs.

The most likely partner in this respect, according to reports, could be Microsoft, which is weighing an acquisition of the short-form video app. Which seems like an odd fit, but it would put TikTok wholly into US ownership, which may also please President Trump as it would essentially be stopping any US-originated revenue from heading back to a Chinese organization.

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It depends, then, what the actual motivations for a TikTok ban actually are, and how the White House considers TikTok’s moves to address the concerns. 

Will TikTok be banned? No one knows for sure, but certainly, it could happen. And if the US bans it, it’s not hard to imagine other western nations may follow suit.

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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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