As of the end of the year, TikTok’s top executives opted to address a pressing issue that was posed to them: with an election for the U.S. presidential election fast coming up, what will they do about political content that they have posted on their booming social media application? The issue prompted discussions and internal discussions about the issue, some in person, others online, and others involving TikTok’s own proprietary Lark software for communication.
They thought about whether they could instruct the program’s algorithm to detect the MAGA banner on the video as a source of troublesome content. However, such changes could unintentionally mark content that is not really politically motivated: Maybe the MAGA signal was visible; however, the video was, in reality, simply a lip-sync video, and it was nothing more.
The political content that was posted on other social media sites has turned these platforms into platforms for propaganda. If that doesn’t occur on TikTok, the app could be an outlet for legitimate, even politically liberal discourse infuriating Republicans, some of who had previously expressed concern regarding the application.
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The executives who were examining the issue comprised Zhang Yiming, the billionaire CEO Of TikTok’s Chinese parent firm, ByteDance, and the discussions went so far as to suggest cutting off the algorithms-driven For You feed during the presidential election, an extreme move that would disable the social network’s most popular feature.
“TikTok was actually trying to keep clear of any politics,” according to a user who has been privy to these internal discussions that weren’t previously documented. “They tried to make it an app for having fun. They said, “We’re an app to dance and sing.'”
Zhang Yiming is the fifth most wealthy person in China, valued at $35.8 billion through an investment in TikTok’s privately owned parent company ByteDance He founded the company.
In the same time frame, TikTok did begin working to create the Content Advisory Council, a group of experts from outside to help the company with topics like political content. However, it didn’t adopt drastic measures like closing the For You stream. By the middle of 2020, political discourse was taking off on TikTok, with videos that were specifically tagged with #election2020 and #2020election able to amass 3.4 billion viewers.
Then there was the pivotal moment in June, when hundreds of K-pop and teenage followers launched a campaign using TikTok to stop the Trump protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by signing up for free tickets but without any plans to attend the event and giving Trump a bafflingly false impression of a packed auditorium. Then, TikTok has been unable to stay out of politics, being caught up in a political tangle that has threatened to drown one of the top startups in the world. It’s been around for four years and is an application with more than 700 million users per month and an estimated $1 billion in revenue annually.
An unimaginable business drama has continued to unfold since TikTok was slammed by former president Donald Trump. On August 27, Trump called for a speedy selling of the business, declaring that he’d block TikTok in the event that it didn’t get its way. At the end of the month, TikTok’s CEO, who was former
Disney chief executive Kevin Mayer left the company and left Zhang to fight Trump and TikTok’s suitors. Discussions of selling TikTok will involve several of the world’s most prominent publicly traded firms; most notable are Microsoft, Oracle, and Walmart, who are all jockeying for position to secure the most-anticipated tech-related asset of the past decade.
“We were on the job round all hours of the day during this time. There was a lot of confusion in people’s minds about the timeline, the mechanisms, and the legality of the information being shared. It was a stressful time,” says Vanessa Pappas, who was appointed interim TikTok’s chief following Mayer was forced to step down. “Obviously, everybody was operating from home, but there were numerous meetings with the top management. The mix of the bizarre orders and the fact that we had to respond amid the outbreak made for the most surreal of situations.”