Bye Bye TikTok, we’ll miss you

Aparnna Hajirnis speaks to loyalists of the banned app, who believe it made social media accessible for the lower socio-economic groups

The party just ended for the 120 million users of TikTok in India. The popular video and photo sharing app vanished after the Madras High Court banned the option to download the app, claiming that it hosted inappropriate content that could be potentially dangerous for impressionable young minds. The ban is a setback for Chinese developer Bytedance Technology’s efforts to tap India’s growing internet content market.

So now comes the question, why was TikTok banned?

Is it because, it was previously banned in Indonesia and Bangladesh? Or is it because of the demographic that TikTok attracts, which is a large number of children and youngsters. The matter of great concern is that despite the age limit of 13 years, children of all ages are using the app. So, who is to be actually blamed? The order of the Madras High Court gives a list of its reasons for the ban, including a concern of availability of pornographic content, exposure of children to sexual predators, persons being made subject to mockery or pranks, violation of privacy and its addictive tendency among youngsters.

We spoke to High Court lawyer and advocate Adnan Shaikh who maintained, “TikTok has quite a lot of videos which are not borderline breaking the law.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 and The Indian Penal Code, 1860 both have various provisions with respect to dealing with notice misuse of technology, internet platforms and social media apps due to which anyone who feels any law is broken, can initiate action. However, the onus is always on TikTok and other such platforms to make strict guidelines and ensure moderation. Mostly these platforms depend on their users to report content which could seem objectionable. However, till there is a decision and review on this report, I suppose that objectionable content stays online and that’s the issue to deal with.”

Popular choice

We spoke to Sahiba Dhandania co-found of Walnut People, a leading digital agency, who broke down the ever-growing popularity of the app and how the brands were capitalising on the fame.

“Being one of the most trending apps among teenagers, TikTok is a great hit and a potential marketing platform for many brands. It provides a stage for people to indulge with others through entertaining videos of lip-syncing, dance and even comedy at times. TikTok has become an app popular enough for its growth to be compared to established social media apps like Instagram and YouTube. Owing to the high inclination of teenagers towards this app, many have used this opportunity to become famous among the masses.”

The high engagement rate of TikTok is a reason for brands to chase TikTok influencers in order to reap marketing benefits from them. Being the fastest growing app today, brands consider TikTok as an emerging potential marketing platform instead of its more elite counterparts. The main factor is its increasing popularity. In June 2018, TikTok reported to have around 500 million monthly worldwide active users, making it an expanding platform available for marketing. Additionally, it is a viral video platform, making it a brand’s golden ticket.

Moreover, unlike the elite social media apps, TikTok focuses more on the millennials, the common people, people others can relate too. This is a big reason for its popularity which can be used by any brand to enhance their marketing campaigns and reach their target audience efficiently. TikTok encourages engagement through its entertaining campaigns so much so that TikTok videos are often shared on other social media too. This acts as an opportunity for brands to further increase engagement and get in touch with their target audience. TikTok influencer marketing can be inexpensive, making it a potential platform for brands.

The common bond

Says 30-year-old Neha Jha, an airhostess who found fame and followers on the video sharing app, “Even though I am not very regular with my content, I found it very engaging and interesting. TikTok was a platform where people could showcase their hidden talents. Not everyone gets a chance to be an actor or a singer, or participate in reality shows, so TikTok became your very own casting agent.”

Sahiba Ilyas, shares the same sentiment, adding, “I have 35k followers on TikTok. The journey with the app has been amazing. They not only give the underdogs a chance to portray their talent but also helps in gaining popularity on other social media handles which eventually leads to bagging brand associations and earning money.”

She is unperturbed by those who mock the app, saying, “I wonder why people have issues with TikTok users. Why watch their videos if you don’t like them? Are you just jealous of the people getting popular via the app? You won’t just find lip-sync videos on the app but some very educative content too, not forgetting the comedy, and other fun videos that bring a smile to people’s face. It requires brainstorming on creating new content. Only we know how much time and retakes that 15-second video takes.

Cyber law expert Rahul Krishan Ahuja points out, “The ban is purportedly to prevent children from getting exposed to sexual predators and paedophiles. But the hatred that the app receives is actually quite elitist.”

Another social media influencer who wishes to remain anonymous, says, “Not everyone can be verbose and eloquent to use Twitter. On Twitter you get castigated for the simplest of typos. TikTok became popular with the lower socio-economic groups, vernacular groups and that is what made the elite social influencers cringe.”

“Getting to know that the app has been banned was heart-breaking or rather shocking,” concludes Sahiba. “I feel there are other more serious issues in the country that need to be controlled than just banning the app. The violators will continue to violate on any other platform. It’s the education and more secure ways that we need to work towards rather than affecting millions of people associated with it. Not a good move, this.”

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