How TikTok compares to China-based counterpart Douyin
SHANNON RUCKER: TRENDS, TOPICS, AND TOO MANY ANIMALS TO COUNT. IF YOU’RE NOT FAMILIAR WITH TIKTOK, GET WITH THE TIMES.
THE SHORT-FORM VIDEO APP HAS SURPASSED INSTAGRAM IN POPULARITY AND IS NOW SEEN BY THE FBI AS A NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT.
CHRISTOPHER A. WRAY | DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: “I would say we do have national security concerns, at least from the FBI’s end, about TikTok. They include the possibility of the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm which could be used for influence operations if they so choose. Or to control software on millions of devices.”
RUCKER: OWNED BY THE TECH GIANT BYTEDANCE, TIKTOK GOES BY THE NAME DOH-YEEN IN CHINA. AND IT LOOKS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT USERS EXPERIENCE IN THE REST OF THE WORLD.
DOUYIN IS ITS OWN ENTITY AND IS ACCESSIBLE ONLY TO PEOPLE LIVING IN MAINLAND CHINA. IT ALSO EXCLUDES ALL OF THE CONTENT POPULAR WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD.
JAKE DENTON | THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: “The experience that an American child has on TikTok versus the experience that a Chinese child has on Douyin and are completely different, and a large part of that is attributed to the content laws within China. When Bytedance was creating the two platforms, they realized that if TikTok was accessible to Chinese children, it would instantly be banned in China. And that is due in large part to the depraved forms of content that are prevalent on the platform and so that ranges from dance videos to drug use things that the Chinese Communist Party has identified as dangerous for children.
RUCKER: JAKE DENTON IS A RESEARCH ASSOCIATE IN THE TECH POLICY CENTER AT THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION.
DENTON: “What this results in, is an environment in which the Chinese children are using this platform to better themselves. They’re getting physical fitness advice, self-help type content, that is almost a value add for the children. But that when you look at the west, it’s not just limited to the United States, European countries all share the same platform, we’re getting a completely different application. We’re getting a completely different consumer experience. Children are fed kind of depraved, dangerous forms of content, anything from, Tide Pod challengers to dance videos or things that make them hate their parents.”
DENTON SAYS ONE OF THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE APPS IS THE ALGORITHMS. THE SAME SEARCH WORDS RESULT IN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONTENT. THEY ARE ALSO POLICED IN COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAYS.
NICOLAS CHAILLAN | FORMER CHIEF SOFTWARE OFFICER U.S. AIR FORCE: “They also limit the amount of time kids can spend on the Chinese platform, because they know this is very addictive. And this can create a lot of issues for developing brains. And so, they’re limiting the use to 40 minutes a day for kids under 18.”
RUCKER: DOUYIN IS ALSO BANNED AT NIGHT, ANOTHER GREAT FIREWALL STRATEGY FROM THE CCP, ACCORDING TO NICOLAS CHAILLAN. HE IS THE FORMER CHIEF SOFTWARE OFFICER FOR THE U.S. AIR FORCE AND SPACE FORCE.
CHAILLAN: “Keep in mind, China has studies that demonstrate that they are treating these social media products as addictions. That’s why they’re limiting the consumption of these products in China.”
RUCKER: OVER 670 MILLION INDIVIDUAL USERS LOG ONTO DOUYIN EACH MONTH. THAT IS ABOUT A FIFTH OF TIKTOK’S GLOBAL MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS. DOUYIN ALSO HAS MUCH MORE ADVANCED E-COMMERCE FEATURES AND A MORE POWERFUL MARKETING PLATFORM FOR BRANDS AND ADVERTISERS.
GABBY GABRIEL | DIRECTOR GAB CHINA: “People in China are very financially driven. More so than I think the US.”
RUCKER: GABBY GABRIEL IS THE DIRECTOR OF GAB-CHINA, A CHINESE DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY HEADQUARTERED IN SHANGHAI.
GABRIEL: “When it comes to marketing and advertising, there’s a lot of room not to be censored.”
RUCKER: GABRIEL SAYS STRICT CENSORSHIP IS HOW CHINA KEEPS ITS PEOPLE SEPARATED FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD.
GABRIEL: “It’s the Great Firewall and it’s a serious disaster. Chinese censorship is a real problem. They created A.I. censorship tools that would automatically censor content based on what it looks like or what words are mentioned. So, it’s gone beyond just individual censoring content, but now robot censoring it. And it’s super accurate and very scary.”
THE CCP IS PULLING THE STRINGS IN CHINA, AND HERE IN THE STATES, ACCORDING TO OUR EXPERTS. THEY SAY CHINA IS USING TIKTOK TO SPY ON THE U.S. AND IS A THREAT TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY.
CHAILLAN: “So, what you’re going to find is that TikTok is potentially the most powerful weapon of mass manipulation and misinformation ever created by the CCP. It’s a dream come true for the CCP for them to even believe that we will let that happen at such a scale. And be clueless enough to let it scale to the point where now it is the leading company in social media in the United States.”
DENTON: “The geolocation data collection is extensive. They know every single movement that you make, or that your child makes. And that’s all collected into a giant metadata profile that goes straight to the CCP. We’ve never seen anything like this in terms of foreign data collection. It’s really staggering.”
IN 2020, THE U.S. MILITARY BANNED ITS MEMBERS FROM USING TIKTOK DUE TO SECURITY RISKS. NOW SENATOR MARCO RUBIO AND REPRESENTATIVE MIKE GALLAGHER ARE INTRODUCING LEGISLATION TO BAN THE APP IN THE U.S. THEY SAY THEY ARE CONCERNED BY THE RISING NUMBER OF ADULTS WHO GET THEIR NEWS FROM TIKTOK.
REGARDLESS, MILLIONS OF AMERICANS AREN’T LIKELY TO DELETE THE APP THAT ENTERTAINS, CONNECTS, AND INFORMS THEM.
A NEILSEN STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE PLATFORM FINDS 64% OF USERS FEEL THEY CAN BE THEIR TRUE SELVES ON TIKTOK. AND 59% OF USERS SAY THEY FEEL A SENSE OF COMMUNITY THERE.