#109: The Rise of the Right
Germany's most successful right-wing extremist party since the Nazis were in power
You are reading Understanding TikTok. My name is Marcus. The last weeks were rather busy, but here is #109. Today we talk about:
⚡German Right-wing TikTok
💻 An Introduction to TikTok’s Research API
👜 Moi & More
⚡⚡ German Right-wing TikTok
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is a right-wing extremist party (Spiegel) and the country's most successful one since the Nazis were in power (Reuters). Election polls are indicating that currently AfD is right behind Christian Democratic Union of Germany as second most powerful party (Politico).
AfD is the most successful German party on TikTok. Yet the phenomenon is under-researched and not fully understood – especially the different path the party takes in many ways in stark contrast to other more traditional German parties who try their best to keep up with platform trends and specifics.
I have written a book chapter called “Alternative TikTok Tactics: How the german right-wing populist party AfD plays the platform” back in January and i am super happy that it will be published in Fast Politics. Propaganda in the Age of TikTok soon. Here is first glimpse: AfD politicians do not play by the book, instead of fun, dancing and profanities the AfD in their own narrative aims for #Wahrheit (truth) #Mut (courage) and #Freiheit (freedom). This pays into the AFD's populist ideology that separates society into “the pure people” versus “the corrupt elite” (Mudde, 2010).
💻 An Introduction to TikTok’s Research API
For years external researchers have been repeating that TikTok needs to open up and offer an API for independent investigation. Due to political pressure in the US (Project Texas) and Europe (Project Clover) TikTok has promised: “We're developing a research API” in July 2022. In November 2022 TikTok released a beta version of the research API and opened data to US researchers in February 2023 (Engadget). And then to researchers in the EU in July 2023.
I joined a TikTok presentation for researchers the other day and got a glimpse of what you can expect. By the way: Everything is well documented here. You might want to check out the Research API Codebook. Here is the FAQ. You need to be affiliated to a research institution and the approval process takes 3-4 weeks. Between February and July 2023 roughly 60 researchers from the US applied for access, said Kathryn Grant (Trust & Safety) and shared a pilot test of the TikTok Research API on Harassment in TikTok Comments by the Cyberbulling Research Center. Of course i will try to get access as well and get back with learnings.
Meanwhile we should not forget about the critical discourse around platforms and API access. TikTok’s API requirements are not fundamentally different from other platform APIs, writes Megan A. Brown for Tech Policy Press but “to perform public-interest research investigating social media — including on vital questions around democracy, public health, crisis informatics, and more — researchers should not have to rely on the good will of platforms to provide data access.”
🐽 Moi & More
💼 The all knowing TikTok Dossier
The Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb in german) is a thing in Germany. Whenever you want to find state-of-the-art unbiased and well-informed knowledge on a variety of topics (including politics, history, sociology and economy) you check out bpb.de. That is why i was honored when i got asked if i could write a TikTok 101 for teachers, parents and people. It took a while, but now it is here: 86 pages explaining TikTok for free (well yeah and in german): Lernen mit – und über – TikTok including articles on TikTok as a medium for digital political education, right-wing extremist mobilization on the platform, false information, war propaganda, how to recognize it and more.
🛹 Streetwork on TikTok
The Amadeu Antonio Foundation is a German foundation engaging against far-right-wing parties, racism and antisemitism. They have a great journalistic platform called Belltower News (English version here) with insightful articles on amongst other TikTok and right-wing extremism and antisemitism (Case Study in English). I am happy to be part of the advisory board for a new Amadeu Antonio Foundation project called pre:bunk. The idea is to take classical street work to the platform to inform on mis-/disinformation. Here is the TikTok account and here is more info about the project (both in german).
🔥 Digital Storytelling
I have conducted a series of workshops on Digital Storytelling for Deutsche Welle - Germany’s international broadcaster. And naturally we have discussed TikTok a lot. Having worked with teams at DW for many years it is great to see how colleagues from around the globe embrace TikTok! Different cultural styles meet platformspecifics and diverse target audiences from all over. If you want to broaden your understanding of #JournalismTok i encourage you to check out The 77 percent or DW Indonesia or DW Español to just pick out a few.
A lot happens on and around TikTok each day. I currently try to keep track on Twitter until that weird place finally falls apart. If you want to read about diverse debates, daily chatter, like academic papers or fancy good old traditional media reporting you will find stuff here like:
TikTok hit with €345M fine for violating children’s privacy (Politico)
TikTok has quietly been inserting Wikipedia snippets into search results (The Verge)
How TikTok Became a Hotbed of Brand Misinformation (Newsweek)
TikTok Popularizes Products. Can It Sell Them, Too? (New York Times)
TikTok as Television (Social Media + Society)
You Can (Not) Say What You Want: Using Algospeak to Contest and Evade Algorithmic Content Moderation on TikTok (Social Media + Society)
TikTok Is Spending $1.3 Billion to Dodge Bans in Europe (Wired)
TikTok has transformed the concert experience (Vox)
Tennis Tok (Dirt)