TikTok controversies

TikTok School Threat and Overview of Other TikTok Controversies

TikTok, also known as Douyin in China, is a video-focused social networking service owned by Chinese firm ByteDance. It features a wide range of short-form user videos with durations ranging from 15 seconds to three minutes, including pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dancing, and entertainment. It is the international version of Douyin, which was first introduced in China in September 2016. Several school districts throughout the country are reacting to an anonymous TikTok school threat that appears to urge children not to attend class on Friday. TikTok controversies have always been on the news from time to time, despite the company’s best attempts to regulate its platform.

Before diving into the history of controversies related to TikTok, let’s take a glance at this latest TikTok trend being widespread on social media as the “ TikTok school threat.”

The TikTok school threat

TikTok school threat, December 17
Source: HITC

The threat, or “challenge,” as some have dubbed it, purportedly calls on students to commit violent acts on December 17. Various school districts across the US are reacting to an unknown threat in TikTok that reportedly warns students not to go to class on Friday. The threat, or “challenge,” as some have referred to it, allegedly approaches understudies on December 17 to submit savagery displays. The threat is labeled “Public Shoot Up Your School Day” on December 17 and does not specify a specific daily schedule.

The post where the TikTok school threat began was never found. However, numerous other posts are currently referring to the TikTok school threat and cautioning understudies to avoid any harm. TikTok stated in a statement that it has not seen evidence of the threat despite the unsettling posts that have since proliferated on the internet. The warnings about the threat have prompted a response from the school district and law enforcement agencies as students prepare to return to class on Friday. “Law-authorization organizations around the nation are watching out for schools directly following cross-country nonexclusive school danger discussions,” Florida’s North Port Police Department wrote in a tweet on Thursday evening.

Now, let’s take a tour through the various controversies TikTok has faced over time in its brief but successful history.

History of the TikTok controversies and legal issues

Tiktok School Threat
Source: 6ABC

Some users may believe that it is tough to stop using TikTok. Douyin received a dependency reduction feature in April 2018. This encourages clients to take breaks at regular times. Later that year, the component was added to the TikTok app. TikTok employs celebrities such as Gabe Erwin, Alan Chikin Chow, James Henry, and Cosette Rinab to encourage users to stop using the app and take a break. Many others were also concerned about their clients’ ability to concentrate while listening to these recordings. Clients repeatedly see small 15-second clasps, and experts think this may result in a decreased ability to focus. This is concerning because a major portion of TikTok’s audience is composed of younger children whose minds are still developing.

Content worries

A few countries have expressed worry over the content of TikTok, describing it as nasty, unethical, foul, and empowering porn. Over the substance concerns, nations such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have issued temporary squares and advisories. Douyin was chastised by Chinese media watchdogs in 2018 for posting “unsuitable” content. Egypt sentenced five women to two years in prison for TikTok videos on July 27, 2020. One of the ladies had encouraged other ladies to try to make money on the stage, while another lady had been released from jail for moving. Every respondent was also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (UK£14,600) by the court.

In the summer of 2019, a 19-year-old man from Curitiba, the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, committed suicide live on TikTok. The Brazilian teen’s live-stream video lingered on TikTok for more than an hour and a half, receiving nearly 500 comments and 15 complaints before being removed. Rather than just promptly contacting police, the Brazilian headquarters of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, was busy monitoring TikTok and other social media platforms to see whether the story leaked publicly.

According to confidential documents obtained from The Intercept by a former ByteDance employee, on the day that a Brazilian teenager live-streamed his suicide, ByteDance headquarters took action — not to warn police or the young man’s family, but to avoid a public relations disaster.

Concerns related to the well-being of TikTok users

Concerns have been raised about content that identifies with, and promotes and spreads, derogatory terms and extreme right fanaticism, such as anti-Semitism, intolerance, and xenophobia. A few videos were shown to blatantly reject the Holocaust’s existence and to exhort viewers to undertake war and battle for the sake of racial oppression and insignia. As TikTok has grown in popularity among young people, and the prevalence of fanatical and derogatory content grows, suggestions for tighter restrictions on their customizable limits have been expressed.

TikTok has subsequently implemented stricter parental controls to weed out unsavory content and ensure it can provide enough assurance and security. Understudies vandalizing or stealing school property and publishing videos of the activity on TikTok are part of a viral TikTok pattern known as “insidious licks.” The pattern has resulted in increased school vandalism and, as a result, protective measures taken by some schools. A few understudies have been apprehended for their involvement in the pattern. TikTok has gone to great measures to remove and prevent access to content displaying the pattern.

According to the Wall Street Journal, doctors have seen an increase in reported cases of tics linked to an increasing number of TikTok videos by content creators with Tourette syndrome. Experts speculated that the cause could be social, since clients who consumed information depicting various tics would occasionally induce tics of their own.


Despite a revised anti-falsehood policy, Media Matters for America stated in January 2020 that TikTok encouraged deceit associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. In April 2020, the Indian government ordered that TikTok remove users who spread misinformation about the COVID-19 outbreak.

ISIS’s deliberate publicity

TikTok removed approximately two dozen records in October 2019 that were responsible for promoting ISIS deliberate publicity on the program.

Stage-based content limitation and balance

TikTok school threat
Source: Fortune

TikTok’s limiting techniques have been criticized as convoluted. The stage has stifled analysis of pioneers such as Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as data relating to the Xinjiang detention camps and the persecution of Uyghurs in the region. According to insiders, arbitrators block posts made by clients deemed “excessively disgusting, poor, or incapacitated” for the stage, as well as blue pencil political conversation in live streams. TikTok moderators have also blocked content that could be perceived as being supportive of LGBT people.

Concerns about client security

Concerns about the application’s security have also been raised. TikTok’s security strategy states that it collects usage data, IP addresses, a client’s mobile carrier, unusual gadget IDs, keystroke examples, and location information, among other things. According to web designers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Musk, allowing recordings and other content to be transmitted by the application’s customers through HTTP jeopardizes the clients’ information security.

Check Point Research discovered a security flaw in TikTok in January 2020, which might have given programmers access to client accounts via SMS. In February, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman condemned the application, calling it “spyware” and saying, “I consider that application to be so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s constantly tuning in, the fingerprinting innovation they use is frightening, and I couldn’t force myself to introduce an application like that on my telephone.” Responding to Huffman’s remarks, TikTok expressed “These are ridiculous allegations made with practically no trace of proof.” Wells Fargo restricted the application from its gadgets because of protection and security concerns.

In May 2020, the Dutch Data Protection Authority declared an examination concerning TikTok comparable to security insurances for youngsters. Later, in June 2020, the European Data Protection Board declared that it would collect a team to inspect TikTok’s client security and security rehearses. In August 2020, The Wall Street Journal detailed that TikTok followed Android client information, including MAC locations and IMEIs, with a strategy infringing upon Google’s approaches. The report started bringing in the U.S. Senate for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to dispatch an examination.

Data security concern of TikTok users

In June 2021, TikTok refreshed its security strategy to incorporate an assortment of biometric information, including “faceprints and voiceprints”. A few specialists responded by calling the terms of assortment and information use “ambiguous” and “profoundly risky”. That very month, CNBC detailed that previous representatives had expressed that “the limits among TikTok and ByteDance were so hazy as to be practically non-existent” and that “ByteDance workers can get to U.S. client information” on TikTok.

In October 2021, following the Facebook Files and discussions about web-based media morals, a bipartisan gathering of administrators additionally squeezed TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat on inquiries of information protection and control for age proper substance. The New York Times announced, “Administrators likewise pounded [head of U.S. strategy at TikTok] Mr. Beckerman regarding whether TikTok’s Chinese possession could open shopper information to Beijing,” expressing that “Pundits have since a long time ago contended that the organization would be committed to surrender Americans’ information to the Chinese government whenever asked.” TikTok told U.S. legislators it doesn’t give data to China’s administration.

TikTok’s agent expressed that TikTok’s information is put away in the U.S. with reinforcements in Singapore. As per the organization’s delegate, TikTok had ‘no association’ with the auxiliary Beijing ByteDance Technology, wherein the Chinese government has a minority stake and board seat.

U.S. COPPA fines

On 27 February 2019, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined ByteDance U.S.$5.7 million for gathering data from minors younger than 13 infringing upon the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. ByteDance reacted by adding children just mode to TikTok which hinders the transfer of recordings, the structure of client profiles, direct informing, and remarking on others’ recordings, while as yet permitting the review and recording of content. In May 2020, a supporting bunch recorded an objection with the FTC saying that TikTok had disregarded the details of the February 2019 assent order, which started ensuing Congressional requires a reestablished FTC examination. In July 2020, it was accounted for that the FTC and the United States Department of Justice had started examinations.

UK Information Commissioner’s Office examination

In February 2019, the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office dispatched an examination of TikTok following the fine ByteDance got from the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Addressing a parliamentary panel, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that the examination centers around the issues of private information assortment, the sort of recordings gathered and shared by kids on the web, just as the stage’s open informing framework which permits any grown-up to message any youngster. She noticed that the organization was conceivably disregarding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which requires the organization to offer various types of assistance and various securities for kids.

Italian Data Protection Authority

On 22 January 2021, the Italian Data Protection Authority requested the hindering of the utilization of the information of clients whose age has not been set up on the interpersonal organization. The request was given later the passing of a 10-year-old Sicilian young lady, which happened later the execution of a test shared by clients of the stage that included endeavoring to gag the client with a belt around the neck. The square is set to stay set up until 15 February, when it will be rethought.

Ireland Data Protection Commission

In September 2021, the Ireland Data Protection Commissioner opened examinations concerning TikTok concerning insurance of minors’ information and moves of individual information to China.

Cyberbullying in TikTok

Source: Technowize

Likewise, with different stages, writers in a few nations have raised security worries about the application, since it is well known with youngsters and can be utilized by sexual stalkers. A few clients have announced endemic cyberbullying on TikTok, including bigotry and ableism. In December 2019, following a report by German computerized privilege bunch Netzpolitik.org, TikTok conceded that it had smothered recordings by impaired clients just as LGBTQ+ clients in an implied work to restrict cyberbullying. TikTok’s arbitrators were likewise told to smother clients with “unusual body shape”, “appalling facial looks”, “such a large number of kinks”, or in “ghettos, rustic fields” and “frail lodging” to forestall tormenting.

In 2021, the stage uncovered that it will present an element that will keep youngsters from getting warnings late. The organization will presently not send pop-up messages later than 9 pm to clients who have matured somewhere in the range of 13 and 15. For 16-year-olds and those matured 17 notices won’t be sent later than 10 pm.

Legal issues faced by TikTok over time

Tencent claims

Tencent’s WeChat stage has been blamed for hindering Douyin’s recordings. In April 2018, Douyin sued Tencent and blamed it for spreading bogus and harming data on its WeChat stage, requesting CN¥1 million in pay and a statement of regret. In June 2018, Tencent recorded a claim against Toutiao and Douyin in a Beijing court, asserting they had over and over criticized Tencent with negative news and harmed its standing, looking for an ostensible amount of CN¥1 in pay and a general acknowledgment. Accordingly, Toutiao documented a grumbling the next day against Tencent for supposedly unreasonable rivalry and requested CN¥90 million in financial misfortunes.

Illegal information transfer claim

Tiktok controversies over time
Source: News18

In November 2019, a legal claim was documented in California that supposed that TikTok moved recognizable data of U.S. people to servers situated in China claimed by Tencent and Alibaba. The claim likewise denounced ByteDance, TikTok’s parent organization, for taking client content without their consent. The offended party of the claim, undergrad Misty Hong, downloaded the application yet said she never made a record. She understood a couple of months after the fact that TikTok has made a record for her utilizing her data, (for example, biometric) and made a synopsis of her data. The claim additionally asserted that data was shipped off to Chinese tech giant Baidu. In July 2020, twenty claims against TikTok were converged into a solitary legal claim in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In February 2021, TikTok consented to pay $92 million to settle the legal claim.

Claim by voice artists

In May 2021, Canadian voice entertainer Bev Standing recorded a claim against TikTok overutilization of her voice on a channel without authorization. The claim was recorded in the Southern District of New York. TikTok declined to remark. She accepts the organization that utilizes accounts made for the Chinese government-run Institute of Acoustics.


Top controversies
Source: WIRED

TikTok, the famous short-form video app, enjoys dipping one foot in controversies and shaking off its long history of severe security issues. The Tiktok school threat is the latest addition to its controversy-filled timeline. It has become the most distributed Chinese app in the United States in just four years since its launch in regions outside of China. The Chinese-owned app has eclipsed social media titans such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to become the most downloaded iOS app in the world.

TikTok may be gold dust for numerous talented creators, but it has never been without controversy or criticism. In its brief existence, the app has been chastised for its lack of privacy and security. According to a Facebook post that went viral on April 6, a Verizon manager told the company to “get rid of the Tic Toc site.” It is a Chinese website with no security, and it is heavily used by hackers and child traffickers.” Check Point research published details of security flaws in a blog post earlier this year.

According to the research, hackers could send malicious links as messages to TikTok users, allowing them to take control of the account after the message was opened. The platform recently received the largest fine in US history for collecting and selling data on youngsters. Despite the fact that the $8 million penalties would have been a drop in the bucket for a firm worth more than $110 million.


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