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TikTok Stands Firm as White House Makes September Deal Deadline Official



It’s now official. Well, official as it can be.

On Thursday evening, The White House issued an Executive Order, signed by US President Donald Trump, which will effectively see TikTok banned in the US if it is not sold to a US-owned business by that time. 

The Order details the case against TikTok, including claims of potential censorship and its process of gathering “vast swaths of information from its users”:

“This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information – potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

TikTok has already been banned from US military-issued devices for this reason, while the Senate this week passed a bill that will see the app banned from all Government-issued devices.

“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.”

Last September, The Guardian published leaked details from TikTok’s moderation guidelines, which included instructions to censor videos that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong. TikTok said that these guidelines were never used for TikTok, but were designed for the Chinese-specific version, Douyin, and were outdated either way. Since then, various claims have been made about TikTok censoring content like videos about the Hong Kong protests, though on investigation, nothing has been proven.

As noted by tech analyst Ben Thompson, proving such would be difficult due to the way TikTok’s algorithm is constructed, but the concerns clearly remain regardless. 

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But TikTok, in its response to the EO, did not hold back in criticizing the US Government’s approach.

In a statement on its blog, TikTok said that it was “shocked'” by Executive Order, which it claims has been issued without any due process.

“For nearly a year, we have sought to engage with the US government in good faith to provide a constructive solution to the concerns that have been expressed. What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses.”

The latter point relates, of course, to US President Donald Trump saying that “a very substantial portion” of the price eventually paid for TikTok, if it does indeed get bought out by a US company, will need to come to go to the US Treasury for facilitating the deal. Whether that’s legal, or even possible, remains up for debate.

TikTok also reiterated its commitment to transparency, outlined recently by new CEO Kevin Mayer, and refuted concerns around its Chinese Government links.

“We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request. In fact, we make our moderation guidelines and algorithm source code available in our Transparency Center, which is a level of accountability no peer company has committed to. We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company.”

Clearly frustrated by the process, TikTok finally notes that it will seek all forms of recourse in combating the US Government’s order, if it comes to a possible ban. 

“This Executive Order risks undermining global businesses’ trust in the United States’ commitment to the rule of law, which has served as a magnet for investment and spurred decades of American economic growth. And it sets a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets. We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly – if not by the Administration, then by the US courts.”

The tone of TikTok’s messaging resembles the recent statement from Mayer, in which he criticized Facebook, and other tech players, for their actions to impede the app’s growth. And really, backed into a corner, there’s not much else TikTok can do – sure, taking on the US Government to secure the future of your app in their jurisdiction seems risky. But TikTok does have some valid points – unless the US Government has intelligence beyond what’s been shared publicly, the case against TikTok on several fronts is based on unsubstantiated fears.

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That doesn’t necessarily make them less plausible, but in a legal sense, they may not hold up.

So, what comes next for TikTok? Well, first, we wait to see whether Microsoft buys it out, which, despite being the clear front runner in a potential race for the platform, is not a given

At present, Microsoft is pushing to buy TikTok in its entirety, which analysts estimate will cost it between $10b and $30b. But is TikTok really worth that? The app is popular now, but it’s arguably in a similar position to what Vine was at peak, when Vine had 200 million US users. TikTok has about half of that, while the app also recently lost 200m users in India, and has much smaller user bases in other markets. 

Overall, you’re looking at paying $30 billion for a platform with, maybe, 300 million users right now, and no defined path towards full monetization, nor an effective eco-system to pay its top creators – who could generate more revenue for their content on YouTube or Instagram (which just rolled out its TikTok-clone ‘Reels’ in more markets).

That seems risky – for comparison, Twitter is currently valued at around $29.8b, and arguably has a much more viable market position and business model. If Microsoft is going to spend so much, it needs to be seeking some solid assurances.

Of course, theoretically, Indian regulators would allow TikTok back into the market if it were no longer Chinese owned – yet even then, there’s no guarantee that users will return to the app if and when it is re-introduced. 

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Then there’s also Microsoft’s other business interests in China.

The CCP is reportedly very unhappy with how the US Government is forcing a Chinese company to sell part of its business to a US group. If Microsoft ends up being that group, the Chinese Government could look to punish the tech giant for its involvement. Microsoft has over 6,000 employees in China, though the region’s impact on Microsoft’s overall revenue is minimal, according to the company.

It may have to assess just how ‘minimal’ it really is if it goes through with a TikTok deal.

Is TikTok set for major revenue growth in future? Could Microsoft take it to the next level? Will Instagram’s Reels de-rail the app?

There are still a lot of key questions for Microsoft, or indeed, any potential buyer to weigh up.

And they now have only 45 days to do so. Before the next stage.

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TikTok Launches ‘TikTok Tactics’ Online Course to Help Marketers Level-Up their Platform Approach



TikTok Launches 'TikTok Tactics' Online Course to Help Marketers Level-Up their Platform Approach

TikTok has launched a new, video-aligned platform training course for marketers, designed to provide tips and insights on how to make best use of the platform for brand promotion and development.

The new ‘TikTok Tactics’ course is an ‘easy to follow, best-practice guide to advertising on TikTok’, which provides a range of lessons on attribution, targeting, creative best practices and more.

The course, which you can sign-up for here, focuses on four key elements:

Each course segment includes a video overview, which eventually points to three varying approaches to each, based on where you’re at in your marketing program.

TikTok Tactics course

For example, as you can see here, in the ‘Attribution’ element, TikTok notes that beginners with limited development resources should start with the standard website pixel, to help track user response data for your campaigns, while more advanced marketers are organizations can move on to its Pixel developer mode and API integration for advanced tracking.

Each element follows the same path, outlining how it can contribute to your overall TikTok marketing strategy, and how you can level up each aspect relative to where you’re at in your process.

TikTok Tactics course

It’s an interesting approach, which, in some ways, seems like TikTok is looking to gamify the progress of your TikTok marketing efforts, with each progressive step putting more reliance on its various tools.

For example, in the ‘Creative’ element, the three steps progress from utilizing your own assets, to partnering with creators via the TikTok Creator Marketplace. Which is logical, that’s one way in which you could scale up your creative elements as you grow your platform presence. But it also guides you further into TikTok’s own tools, and the features that will benefit the company, by bringing more ad dollars into its creator eco-system.

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That’s not to say that this approach is merely self-serving, but basically, TikTok is also looking to boost its own products and services, and in most cases, you don’t necessarily have to use TikTok’s own tools, specifically, to maximize your efforts.  

But you can, and these basic overviews, which also connect through to more information on each element, provide more specific outlines on how to go about leveling up your on-platform promotions as you progress over time.

As a singular guide, the insights here are fairly basic, but at each step, you are invited to dig deeper to develop your understanding, while TikTok has also included a 19-page guide book to help in your planning and implementation.

TikTok Tactics course

It’s interesting, and definitely worth a look for TikTok marketers, but it maybe doesn’t go into the specifics of on-platform tactics as much as the name might suggest.

Still, it could be worth a look if you want to make best use of TikTok for promotions.

You can sign-up and go through the TikTok Tactics course here.

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



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

“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



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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