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TikTok: A Guide to the Popular Video-Sharing App
TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and share short-form videos, usually with music, filters, effects, and other features. It has become one of the most downloaded apps in the world, with more than 3.5 billion downloads and 800 million active users as of April 2020. TikTok is especially popular among young people, who use it for entertainment, education, expression, and social connection.
But what makes TikTok so appealing and addictive? What are some of the features and benefits of using TikTok? And what are some of the security and privacy concerns that users and governments have about the app? In this article, we will explore these questions and more, as we provide a comprehensive guide to TikTok.
What are some of the features and benefits of using TikTok?
TikTok offers a variety of features that make it easy and fun to create and watch videos. Some of these features include:
Video uploading: Users can upload their own videos to the app or use pictures and clips from their gallery. They can also choose from millions of songs and sounds from TikTok's library or their own device.
Video editing: Users can crop, flip, rotate, speed up, slow down, reverse, or add transitions to their videos. They can also use filters, stickers, text, emojis, face masks, beauty effects, green screen, time warp scan, voice effects, duet, stitch, and other tools to enhance their videos.
Social sharing: Users can share their videos with their followers or the public on TikTok or other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc. They can also like, comment, follow, message, live stream, or join challenges with other users.
Content discovery: Users can discover new videos based on their interests, preferences, location, or trends on two main pages: For You and Following. The For You page shows personalized recommendations from TikTok's algorithm based on user behavior. The Following page shows videos from users that one follows.
Some of the benefits of using TikTok are:
Creativity: TikTok allows users to express themselves creatively through various formats, genres, styles, and themes. Users can showcase their talents, skills, hobbies, passions, opinions, humor, emotions, stories, etc. through their videos.
Education: TikTok provides users with access to a wealth of information and knowledge on various topics such as science, history, art, culture, health, fitness, cooking, languages, etc. Users can learn new things or teach others through educational videos.
Entertainment: TikTok offers users endless entertainment options through its diverse and engaging content. Users can enjoy watching funny, cute, inspiring, thrilling, or surprising videos that suit their mood or taste.
Connection: TikTok enables users to connect with other people who share similar interests or backgrounds. Users can interact with their friends or family members through video chats or messages. They can also discover new friends or communities through hashtags or challenges.
What are some of the security and privacy concerns about TikTok?
Despite its popularity and benefits, Despite its popularity and benefits, TikTok has also faced some security and privacy concerns from users and governments. Some of these concerns include:
How does TikTok collect and use user data?
TikTok collects a lot of data from its users, such as their names, email addresses, phone numbers, locations, device information, browsing history, contacts, messages, photos, videos, sounds, and more. TikTok says it uses this data to provide and improve its services, personalize content and ads, measure performance, protect security, and comply with legal obligations. However, some users and experts have questioned how TikTok handles this data and whether it respects user privacy and consent.
For example, in 2019, TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires parental consent for collecting personal information from children under 13. TikTok agreed to delete the data of underage users and implement age verification measures. In 2020, TikTok was sued by a group of parents in Illinois for allegedly collecting biometric data of minors without consent. TikTok denied the allegations and settled the case for $92 million in 2021.
How does TikTok's parent company ByteDance relate to the Chinese government?
Another major concern about TikTok is its relationship with its parent company ByteDance, which is based in China. Some critics have accused ByteDance of having close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and being subject to Chinese laws that could compel it to share user data with the Chinese government or censor content that is deemed sensitive or critical of the regime. These accusations have sparked fears that TikTok could pose a national security threat or a propaganda tool for China.
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TikTok has repeatedly denied these accusations and claimed that it operates independently from ByteDance and that it stores its U.S. user data in servers located in the U.S. and Singapore, not in China. TikTok also said that it has never received or complied with any request from the Chinese government to access or remove user data or content. However, some experts have argued that TikTok's assurances are not enough to guarantee its autonomy or transparency, and that there is no clear legal or technical barrier that would prevent ByteDance from accessing or transferring TikTok's data if pressured by the Chinese authorities.
How does TikTok respond to these allegations and what measures does it take to protect user data and content?
TikTok has taken several steps to address these allegations and to reassure its users and regulators that it is committed to protecting user data and content. Some of these steps include:
Hiring new leadership: In 2020, TikTok hired Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, as its new CEO and Vanessa Pappas, a former YouTube executive, as its new general manager for the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Mayer resigned after three months amid the U.S. government's pressure to ban or sell TikTok, but Pappas remained as the interim global head of TikTok until Shou Zi Chew, a former Xiaomi executive, was appointed as the new CEO in 2021. TikTok also hired Roland Cloutier, a former ADP executive, as its new chief information security officer in 2020.
Launching a transparency center: In 2020, TikTok opened a transparency center in Los Angeles, where it invited outside experts and observers to review its content moderation policies and practices, as well as its data security and privacy measures. TikTok also publishes regular transparency reports on its website, where it discloses the number and nature of government requests for user data or content removal that it receives and how it responds to them.
Implementing new policies and features: In 2020 and 2021, TikTok updated its community guidelines and terms of service to clarify its rules on content moderation and data collection . It also introduced new features such as parental controls, age verification, privacy settings, safety tips, anti-bullying tools, and educational resources to help users manage their online safety and well-being .
What are some of the legal and regulatory challenges that TikTok faces in different countries?
Besides the security and privacy concerns, TikTok also faces some legal and regulatory challenges in different countries, where it has to comply with local laws and regulations that may affect its operations and growth. Some of these challenges include:
Which countries have banned or restricted TikTok and why?
Some countries have banned or restricted TikTok either temporarily or permanently, citin