Quite a lot of heads were turned in the recent YouTube vs Tiktok controversy which finally led to Tiktok being declared as the least rated app with more than a billion downloads. Within 3 days, after a ban on Tiktok was called for over Twitter, the app’s Play ratings slid from 4.2 to an all time low of 1. Who knew turning the tables would be so easy?

Tiktok has been under fire recently for unmoderated content and promoting sexual harassment/violence as well as acid attacks. This is not new.in 2019, it was banned for some time in India for “morality issues” including pornographic content and predatory behaviour as concerns.

Every time Indians feel that someone is undermining them, they love to show them their place. Snapchat suffered along the same lines in the past when a clip went viral where the CEO said that India was not a market worth exploring.

And boom, the next day, people were busy uninstalling the app. I personally find it funny how Indians found a way to overcome boredom.

Let’s explore the app’s trajectory from the start.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Tiktok is a video-sharing social network owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company. The time length of clips ranges between 3 to 60 seconds where the user can lip-sync, dance and do all sorts of stuff. The company was founded in 2012.While the app didn’t appeal many above the age of 30, it struck a chord with the younger audiences and since then there have been a number of Tiktok controversies

ABOUT THE APP

Tiktok statistics

Source: Apptrace

The app is available in 39 languages including English, French, Italian, Turkish, Hindi, Bengali, Gujrati, Tamil and Telegu.

Recently, Disney’s Head of Streaming Kevin Mayer was instigated as the Tiktok’s new CEO. He will have to navigate through troubled waters that include music labels fighting for copyrights, competition with similar apps, and a demand in rise asking for moderation on the app.

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Why did Tiktok bloom during the Lockdown?

For the world, the lockdown made them miserable. But for Tiktok, it is a golden time. The app’s usage witnessed a meteoric rise. There are several reasons that have made this possible:

  1. The increased visibility of Tiktok on other social media apps like Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook.
  2. In these times, news channels and online media are filled with negative air. This apps offers a chance at entertainment and an alternative fun-space to create your own content.
  3. More and more celebrities and influencers are joining it, encouraging their fan base to do the same.
  4. The ease of producing Tiktok videos attracts many.
Avg Engagement rate of Tiktok compared to other platforms

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

The Duality of Tiktok

While its normal for people to have contrasting opinions, this one however feels a bit biased. Mot people do not like Tiktok, as eminent from the recent turn of events. Then how come it has been downloaded a billion times? This is where rural India maintains its stronghold. The app has given people a distraction and way of doing different things. Hence, its popularity.

Urban India, however has different concerns regarding this app. These include:

  1. The vibrant shades of communalism on the app. There have been so many cases of igniting hatred and multiple FIRs have been lodged too. But to no avail.
  2. It is directly considered a competition to YouTube. Since, YouTube influencers have immense fan followings and outreach on social media, they tend to implicate the app for worse.
  3. Since, the app belongs to a Chinese firm, people oppose it out of nationalist feelings.
  4. As of now, Tiktok is producing disengaging content, or in simple words, what people find cringe.

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The Recent Tiktok Controversy

Pleas to ban tiktok by people

The latest series of incidents were a result of Twiterrites calling for a ban on the app across India. It resulted in 28 million negative reviews in total. After ratings fell to 1.2, the Play Store took down the app for sometime during the night and filtered the review by deleting approximately a million negative review and bringing back the rating to 1.6 eventually. This seems more like a tug of war game between Netizens of India and The Play Store Moderation team, where both are trying to secure the rope towards their end.

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WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE COMING DAYS?

 Let me clear out the mystery for you, once and for all. Under no case, will the app be removed until the government of India bans it. Its very easy for the company to buy paid positive reviews to nullify the effects due to the controversy. Also, the app can simply be taken down and spam reviews deleted. Just like, what happened. 

After the online scuffle, Tiktok reportedly took down several accounts that were reported for unacceptable content. In a retaliatory move, it has even begun to remove videos spreading misinformation and increased moderation efforts.

In a statement released by the company in one of its earlier controversies regarding data privacy, the company clearly stated that all of its data centers are located entirely out of China, with backup redundancy in Singapore. Hence, none of its data is subject to Chinese laws. Further, the moderation policies in each country are outlined by each country’s government guidelines and not according to the Chinese government. The entire excerpt can be found at its website.

According to MoneyControl, the current controversy won’t have much impact on the app’s userbase and ratings will bounce back to normal soon. Brands engage heavily with users on this platform and it would be a bad marketing decision to walk out of it at such a temporal moment.

In the words of Ashutosh Harbola, CEO and Co-Founder, Buzzoka

“Tiktok has become very important for brands because they see product sales across categories and across markets especially tier II, III markets are very important for brands. Cola brands which are among the biggest endorses in the world are also on TikTok. Hence, I don’t there will be any impact when it comes to brands; probably a gap of 10-15 days but they will be back on TikTok.”

However, things can change in the way brands have been collaborating with influencers. From now on, they will need to research heavily about influencers and his target audience before handing them deals.

Similar Controversies

Calls for banning an app in India keep on echoing time to time. Recently, a BJP leader filed a petiton against Twitter seeking a mechanism to check the spread of fake news on the platform.

Zoom too, has been called out for its security issues, and a new petition in the Supreme Court seeks to ban it in India.

Several apps like Tubemate, which are China based have already been banned in the country.

Last year, the Govt of India ordered all army personnel to remove Truecaller from their phones, due to privacy concerns. This app is Sweden based and is already under scrutiny.

Conclusion

I won’t say that all efforts were in vain. Because now, it is simply clear to companies how one rash controversy can cost them millions. The value of “customer” has been rising in the market and this event single handedly emboldens it. No wonder, tomorrow a political party comes up with a manifesto to ban Tiktok across India.

For today, the Tiktok is present on the play store and is bringing joy to millions of its users.

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