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SOCIAL MEDIA

TikTok may soon be facing major headwinds over ‘spying’ concerns

By our News Team | 2023

Following the ‘spy balloon’ scandal, countries could try to curtail or ban the social video app. How will this impact its stellar growth?

TikTok, the rapidly growing social media app that is particularly popular with younger consumers, may find itself in trouble in the key US market – and by extension several other Western countries – if American legislators move to ban it.

The Chinese-owned social video app is already banned from government mobile phones in both the US and Canada over concerns that it can be used by the Chinese government for spying purposes. A similar ban is in place for European Union and European Parliament officials.

Social Media

Photo by Cottonbro Studio from Pexels

Following the recent ‘spy balloon’ scandal, in which high-altitude spy balloons allegedly operated by China were shot down by military authorities while over US and Canadian airspace, tensions have been further escalated. 

Some Washington-based legislators now want to try to force TikTok out of the country completely, with a senior member of Congress calling the app a “spy balloon in your phone”.

While it is remains to be seen is if such a ban is feasible – both in terms of freedom of speech and practical implementation – it would nevertheless impede TikTok and may cause big-spending multinational advertisers to move their adspend elsewhere.

TikTok denies data is used by the Chinese state

TikTok has denied that its data, or algorithm, is accessed by the Chinese state. Last year it was reported that the US tech firm Oracle had begun auditing TikTok’s algorithms and content moderation models to ensure they were not being manipulated by Chinese authorities.

Among African consumers, TikTok was the fastest-growing media channel last year, and more than 46% of Africans in a study by Meltwater said they planned to use the app in 2023.

This week, a discussion session initiated by the Institute of Marketing in Malawi on LinkedIn brought forth varying opinions as to the impact that such a ban would have on African marketers.

“The potential ban on TikTok in Malawi is unlikely to have a significant impact on the marketing industry in the country. With the absence of advertising support from TikTok and few companies paying influencers to post paid content, creatives and businesses in Malawi are unlikely to be affected by the ban,” said one discussion participant.

“For global brands that have been active on the app it’s a big blow. For Malawian marketers who are slow to adopt digital marketing, especially with apps etc, the impact will be very minimal,” observed another.

“I have always argued that using these social media platforms for business is like building a house on your landlord’s plot. It can be risky……..This will affect [all the] third world countries who have migrated to TikToK because of its reach. Sad day for business!” commented a third.

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