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TikTok’s Future Remains Under a Cloud After CEO’s Appearance Before Congress

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TikTok’s Future Remains Under a Cloud After CEO’s Appearance Before Congress

So how did TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s appearance before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce go today?

Well, it’s hard to say – amid the regular smattering of accusations framed as questions, and vague queries that seemed to misunderstand how the internet itself works, Chew mostly seemed to provide carefully worded answers, while fending off anything too difficult by saying that he’d look into it.

In a crucial hearing, which could decide the future of the app in the US, Chew provided a passionate defense of the platform, and sought to address US regulatory concerns, with the key issue being the potential of American user data being shared with the Chinese Government.

Chew sought to dispel this notion, while TikTok also posted a public statement on this:

Chew was pressed on various aspects, relating to TikTok’s past actions on censorship (i.e. whether it censors content critical of the CCP), its accessing of US user data to track journalists, it’s algorithm, youth safety aspects, and more.

For the most part, Chew was able to navigate the various questions without making any definitive commitments. But at the same time, his appearance, by various accounts, wasn’t overly assuring, or convincing, in regards to winning over US senators.

In particular, when pressed on whether ByteDance employees have spied on US citizens in the past, Chew deferred, saying that ‘I don’t think spying is the right way to describe it’. Chew also questioned the track record of American companies on user data, when asked about a potential divestment from ByteDance – which seems like a fair comparison, but is unlikely to resonate with US officials.

But the key statement of Chew’s appearance was this:

“The bottom line is this – American data is stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel.”

This was from Chew’s pre-prepared testimony, in which Chew explained that ‘Project Texas’, TikTok’s multi-billion dollar plan to separate US user data from its Chinese parent company, will secure US user data in the US, making it entirely inaccessible to China-based staff.

TikTok’s hope is that this effort will be enough to assure US regulators that American users are safe.

But then again, when pressed on another key point, as to whether TikTok would ever consider selling user data, Chew refused to provide a firm commitment, noting, instead, that he would seek further clarification before providing an answer.

At the end of this, it still remains difficult to determine where TikTok is placed, in regards to the possibility of a full ban in the US. Even worse, the Chinese Government has once again shared its opposition to the forced sell-off of the app, which means that if TikTok is banned by the US Government, a sell-off into local hands may not be an option.

Which, once again, underlines the fact that TikTok’s future hinges on how US politicians perceive Chew’s testimony.

Was he convincing enough in his explanations? Has TikTok done enough to assure policymakers of its intentions? Will Project Texas be enough to demonstrate separation of access within parent company ByteDance?

Really, the next steps are likely out of Chew’s hands either way, as it still feels like the rising tensions between the US and China will be the key determinate. Last month’s spy balloon incident raised the hackles of those concerned about Chinese interference, weighing further against TikTok, while this week’s meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin has further stoked concerns.

In this respect, it feels like TikTok is caught in the middle amidst a much broader disagreement between the two nations, and it another incident of this type could end up being the thing that makes or breaks TikTok in the US.

Any further indication of Chinese defiance, specifically against the US, could force the White House to act. So while Chew may have done his best, maybe there’s nothing he could do within the broader context.



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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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X Faces Restrictions in India and Pakistan Amid Government Orders for Content Removals

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New Report Finds That X May Be Inflating its Ad Performance Results

X is facing new challenges in both India and neighboring Pakistan, with the Indian Government calling on X to censor specified accounts to counter unrest, and Pakistani officials seemingly blocking access to X altogether, amid accusations of vote rigging in its recent election.

Firstly, in India. As confirmed by X, the Indian Government has issued a new order for X to ban users that it has identified as prompting civil disobedience.

As per X:

“The Indian government has issued executive orders requiring X to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment. In compliance with the orders, we will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.”

X says that even though it is moving to fulfill these orders, it will also continue to challenge the Indian Government’s bans through whatever legal means it has available.

It’s not the first time that the Indian Government has demanded specific censorship from the platform, with both X and previous Twitter management being called upon to remove certain comments and users who’ve gone against official rulings.

Last year, X was forced to remove a BBC documentary that was critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after it was banned in the nation, which many used as an example to highlight X’s inability to uphold its own free speech approach.  

Twitter, meanwhile, was served with a non-compliance notice in 2021 for refusing to action similar account takedown demands from the Indian Government. In that instance, which directly related to civil unrest, India threatened to shut down Twitter entirely in response, while it also suggested that the company’s Indian staff could face up to seven years jail time for failing to comply.

As such, Twitter was effectively forced to action India’s requests, in order to protect its staff (note: The Indian Government has denied that any such threats occurred).

Both incidents serve as reminders of how authoritarian regimes will look to control mass communication platforms, like Twitter and X, in order to manage messaging, and combat noncompliance.

Pakistan, too, has a long history of seeking to control social platforms, though more notably due to “inappropriate content”, as opposed to what users are saying. Pakistan, which is a Muslim country, has banned various apps, at different times, in response to concerns about content, though in this latest instance, it does seem to be taking a leaf out of India’s book in using bans to quell civil unrest.

X will now have to find a way to maintain an adequate balance between adhering to such requests, while upholding its own “free speech” ethos, though X owner Elon Musk has been clear from the start that his free speech push will not go beyond the bounds of local laws in each region.

So while Twitter has challenged India’s requests in the past, and X has vowed to seek further legal clarification around the same, it will be aligning with the Indian government’s requests, and removing users and content in line with their requirements.

Does that mean that X isn’t willing to stand its ground on its much lauded open speech approach?

No, not when the alternative is to see X banned entirely, which would eliminate all speech for the impacted individuals, and reduce all protests against government action.

And no matter what your opinion of X may be, it is still a highly influential platform, in many ways, which is why officials are still looking to control the discussion in the app.

Though the bigger for question for Elon specifically is how such actions could impact his other businesses.

Tesla is still working to get into the emerging Indian market, which could become a huge sales opportunity for the company. Tesla’s been working with the Indian Government to enact new concessions on import duties, in order to bring its vehicles to market, and it’d be interesting to know whether Indian officials have used such as a lever to pressure action at X.

Based on what we know, it does seem like X would have little choice either way, but it’s another consideration in this instance, which could cause some uncomfortable internal discussions around the same.



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