news   |   student life

IU TikToker reacts to app ban reversal as concerns of data collection, censorship linger



2020-09-20-deryn-tiktok-1

A student opens the app TikTok on Sept. 20. The social media platform was scheduled to be removed from app stores Sunday before the order was postponed Saturday when President Trump approved the proposed creation of TikTok Global. Alex Deryn

Étienne Najman, IU senior and TikTok creator, breathed a sigh of relief Saturday night after learning the app would no longer be pulled from American app stores.

According to NPR, the social media platform was scheduled to be removed from app stores Sunday before the order was postponed late Saturday night when President Trump approved the proposed creation of TikTok Global. This new, American-based company will include a partnership between Oracle and Walmart, but the deal is still awaiting formal approval from the Trump administration.

Najman downloaded TikTok last September. His original videos featured himself dancing in class, many receiving more than a million views. He is now a verified creator with two million followers. 

Najman said he had been considering the possibility of TikTok being banned for several months now, but was not expecting it to be removedfrom app stores considering the size of its American audience.

Sophomore and TikTok user Heather East also did not give the ban much thought when she first heard of it.

“I heard about it and I thought ‘Well, it’s just going to be like Flappy Bird where people keep it on their phone and then sell their phones for money,'” East said.

Now that Najman has begun his final year of college, he said TikTok has taken a backseat to other matters related to his job search in the marketing industry. However, he was glad to see the app would be staying after all. 

“The idea of TikTok being banned has definitely been a hot topic for the past two or three months I want to say,” Najman said. “The first time I freaked out because all of my following is on TikTok.”

Sarah Bauerle Danzman is an IU assistant professor of international studiesand spent the past year as a foreign relations international affairs fellow. She said people should still be mindful of the extent of data collection of TikTok.

“TikTok collects a lot more data and a lot more problematic data than even the other worst offenders out there like Instagram or Facebook,” Bauerle Danzman said.

Bauerle Danzman said TikTok has collected clipboard data in the past, which includes passwords or credit card information. This data is directly connected with whatever device it is taken from. Bauerle Danzman said there is nothing the user can do to stop this kind of surveillance. She said even though the company promised to improve these practices, this still may not repair the damages.  

“TikTok says that they’ve cleaned up their act, but one of the problems is that because they have a track record of collecting data that they’re not supposed to, there’s a lack of trust there,” Bauerle Danzman said.

Najman said he recognizes data is being collected from him, but is not particularly worried.

“Data is the new thing everyone wants,” Najman said. “I don’t really care, like you can have my location and who I talk to. If you want to blackmail me, that’s fine, but I’ve accepted it at this point so it doesn’t really matter to me.”

Bauerle Danzman also addressed concerns of censorship taking place on the platform globally. She said said there are allegations that TikTok’s algorithm suppresses LGBTQ content.

Najman said he is also suspicious of censorship taking place on the platform as a creator. The process is colloquially referred to on the app as ‘shadowbanning.’ Najman said his content received a lot of attention until he signed up for the TikTok Creator Fund, which would allow him to earn money from the views his videos received.

“Myself and a lot of other people noticed that after they signed up for the creator fund, our numbers dropped,” Najman said. 

Najman said he even deleted videos that were not performing well. He estimates that many of his videos received less than 100,000 views, which is a steep decline in comparison to his previous videos receiving more than 300,000 views consistently. Since then, Najman has left the creator fund in hopes of recovering his views, but he has yet to see a change in numbers.

Najman also said he would not be surprised if TikTok was censoring content through shadowbans, particularly content related to the LGBTQ community or the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Everything is a gray area with TikTok,” Najman said. “You never know what they’re doing.”

Even with its shortcomings, Najman said he considers TikTok to be an important part of college culture and plans on continuing to upload videos as long as he can.

“I feel like it definitely is an integral part of life,” Najman said. “It’s kind of like you’re left out of a whole part of what’s going on if you’re not on TikTok.”

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More in News



Comments powered by Disqus