Saturday October 19, 2019
Home India TikTok Addict...

TikTok Addicted India Before Elections

The backlash comes as social media companies face increased scrutiny from authorities over fake news and undesirable content ahead of the polls. A federal proposal will mandate them to swiftly remove "unlawful" content when asked.

0
//
TikTok
The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

A video clip shot on a sparse rooftop of what looks like a low-rise apartment block shows a young Indian man swaying while lip-syncing a song praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Describing himself as a proud Indian with the online identity “garrytomar”, he is wearing ear-studs and shows a beaded necklace under a partly unbuttoned shirt in the 15-second clip.

“Modi has single-handedly trounced everyone … Modi is a storm, you all now know,” goes the Hindi song, posted on Chinese video mobile application TikTok, the latest digital platform to grip India’s small towns and villages ahead of a general election due by May.

Created by Beijing Bytedance Technology, one of the world’s most valuable start-ups potentially worth more than $75 billion, TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with various special effects. It is becoming hugely popular in rural India, home to most of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

TikTok
TikTok is fast catching up: it has been downloaded more than 240 million times in India so far, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower. VOA

Social media platforms such as Facebook, its unit WhatsApp and Twitter are extensively being used by Indian politicians for campaigning ahead of the election: Facebook’s 300 million users and WhatsApp’s 200 million have made India their largest market in the world, while Twitter too has millions of users.

TikTok is fast catching up: it has been downloaded more than 240 million times in India so far, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower. More than 30 million users in India installed it last month, 12 times more than in January 2018.

“Most urban elites haven’t heard of TikTok and those who have, tend to view it as a platform for trivial content. In reality, it hosts diverse content including a fair share of political speech,” said Kailas Karthikeyan, a New Delhi-based technology analyst who has tracked TikTok for nine months.

TikTok’s video-only interface makes it less elaborate and easier to use compared to platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, making it a bigger attraction in rural India, he added.

Political interest

While Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party have not officially joined TikTok, videos tagged #narendramodi have received more than 30 million views and those about Congress chief Rahul Gandhi (#rahulgandhi) have got nearly 13 million hits. Total views for political videos is far higher.

Amit Malviya, the BJP’s chief of information technology, said the party was tracking TikTok conversations and it was “abrilliant medium for creative expression”. The party, however, has no plans as of now to officially join the platform, he said.

social media
Social media platforms such as Facebook, its unit WhatsApp and Twitter are extensively being used by Indian politicians for campaigning ahead of the election: Facebook’s 300 million users and WhatsApp’s 200 million have made India their largest market in the world, while Twitter too has millions of users. Pixabay

A Congress source said the party was exploring joining TikTok and assessing how it could be used to better reach out to people in rural areas in the run-up to the election.

Not all political videos on TikTok seek votes. Some videos show people waving the Congress flag on Indian streets. Another clip shows Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a stage, with a Hindi-language rustic voiceover of her saying she will marry the Indian leader.

“I would die with him and live with him,” the Merkel voice impersonator declares in the video.

In another TikTok post, Modi fan Yogesh Saini says the prime minister is his world, moments before opening his jacket toreveal a video of Modi on his chest.

Saini, 23, isn’t affiliated to any political party, but says: “It’s my job to support Modi-ji, so I’m doing that,” using the honorific Indian suffix. He spoke to Reuters from the small town of Sawai Madhopur in the desert state of Rajasthan.

Scrutiny, backlash

Jokes, dance clips and videos related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the platform. #Bollywood tagged videos have nearly 13 billion views and the app is also flooded with memes, as well as videos on cooking.

TikTok, though, is facing opposition from some quarters.

The information technology minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, M. Manikandan, said he will urge the federal government to ban the app as some content was “very unbearable.”

“Young girls and everybody is behaving very badly. Sometimes the body language is very bad, and (people are) doing mimicry of political leaders very badly,” Manikandan told Reuters.

A Hindu nationalist group close to Modi’s BJP too has called for a ban on TikTok.

TikTok said it respects local laws and there was “no basis” for the concerns. Promoting a safe and positive in-app environment was its “top priority,” it said.

The backlash comes as social media companies face increased scrutiny from authorities over fake news and undesirable content ahead of the polls. A federal proposal will mandate them to swiftly remove “unlawful” content when asked.

Also Read:Patients With Hard-To-Treat Depression, A New Drug ‘Special K’ At Rescue

A senior government official in New Delhi said the government wants TikTok to comply with the new Indian regulations as and when they kick in, but there wasn’t any immediate concern on content.

Still, the government has asked the Chinese company to have better checks in place to ensure its users are aged above 12, which is recommended by the app itself, the official said. (VOA)

Next Story

TikTok ‘Poaching’ Facebook Employees Right in its Backyard

According to the Facebook CEO, TikTok is almost like Instagram's Explore Tab

0
TikTok
The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

Chinese short-video making platform TikTok is reportedly poaching Facebook employees and has moved into an office space in Mountain View, California that used to be frequented by WhatsApp workers before it was acquired by the social networking giant in 2014.

According to a CNBC report, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have also posted several job postings in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to LinkedIn.

“Since 2018, the company has hired more than two dozen employees from Facebook,” the report said.

The new location gives TikTok a strategic presence as it is just a few blocks away from Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters and employees can just walk-in for jobs.

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that TikTok is doing well in the US and growing quickly in India, unveiling his own plans to counter the rising clout of the Chinese short video-sharing platform in meetings with employees.

Saying that Facebook has a “number of approaches” to compete with TikTok, Zuckerberg said the company would first test the efficacy of its strategies in markets where TikTok is not already big, according to the details of the meeting published by The Verge.

With over 200 million users in India, TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is fast closing the gap with Facebook in the country.

Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

“We have a number of approaches that we’re going to take towards this, and we have a product called Lasso that’s a standalone app that we’re working on, trying to get product-market fit in countries like Mexico, is I think one of the first initial ones,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying.

In November last year, Facebook quietly released a stand-alone app called “Lasso” to compete with TikTok.

ByteDance claims it has over 700 million daily active users globally. Facebook has more than 2.1 billion people that use one of its apps daily, including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

According to the Facebook CEO, TikTok is almost like Instagram’s Explore Tab.

Also Read: Mark Zuckerberg Admits Facebook Publishes ads Containing Lies

“I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for stories, and that were the whole app,” Zuckerberg said.

“We’re taking a number of approaches with Instagram, including making it so that Explore is more focused on stories, which is increasingly becoming the primary way that people consume content on Instagram, as well as a couple of other things there,” he said. (IANS)