TikTok Newsletter 76
Russia. Redfish. Refugees. Rosalia
This is Understanding TikTok – your weekly TikTok update. My name is Marcus.
The war in Ukraine continues. Day after day. Here is a little TikTok related update. And more stuff. The world keeps turning. So do we.
Today we talk about:
🇺🇦 Ukraine Status Update
✏️ TikTok’s word-filtering system
💃🏽 Isn’t that Rosalía?
🇺🇦 Ukraine Status Update
⚡I am honest with you. When i saw the video the first time i thought “nice try”. But i obviously underestimated the social media skills, the virality, and Ed Sheeran too. Ukrainian pop-rock band Antytila took to TikTok asking to participate in an upcoming benefit concert remotely as they are on the ground in Ukraine fighting for their country (Newsweek). Well, here is Ed Sheeran’s answer on TikTok.
⚡A new TikTok account can be shown falsehoods about the Ukraine war within minutes of signing up to the app, according to an investigation by anti-misinformation outlet NewsGuard, writes The Guardian. Among the false claims shown to the researchers was the myth that the US has bioweapon laboratories in Ukraine. “To carry out the test, NewsGuard’s research team simply made new accounts on the app and spent 45 minutes scrolling through the For You Page, stopping to view in full any video that looked like it was about the war in Ukraine.” You want to know TikTok’s reponse to that? Fortune asked. Answer: “This experiment does not mimic standard viewing behavior” 🤡. That is true. I was able to find misinformation on Ukraine way faster.
⚡Marieke Kuypers has identified this “striking ‘trend’ in which dozens of videos can be found under this sound with exactly the same purport: justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine by making a comparison with bombings of the former Yugoslavia. Context here.
⚡The german police denied that a 16 year old refugee helper was beaten to death in Euskirchen by Ukrainians because he was speaking russian. A TikTok video gained traction and was widely shared before being debunked and deleted (T-Online/German, Washington Post/English).
⚡All 'state media' labels that TikTo introduced (The Verge) are now visible on TikTok desktop, as well as app, tweets Ciaran O’Connor. Fun fact: Redfish.media, Berlin based self-proclaimed “multi award-winning digital content creator”, funded by the Kremlin according to Daily Beast and other has a “NOT Russia state-controlled media” in the bio, while you can clearly see the banner stating “Russia state-controlled media”. The techniques being applied in the videos seem to be directly from the rulebook of propaganda. See this video and this explanation via Politico calling the technique the tu quoque (“you too”). Or the cat here, compare #73.
⚡Some have argued and asked why people in Ukraine are posting on TikTok anyhow. I found this answer helpful: „While it might seem strange to see people make social media posts about war, particularly highly aestheticized ones that use meme formats, jokes, songs, filters, edits, and other aspects of the TikTok toolkit, wouldn’t it be stranger if they didn’t?“ Indeed. Alina Volik has evacuated to Budapest (Video). Valerie is finally in Italy. And it hurts to see her make that italian coffee she had been dreaming of in the bunker while her parents remain in Ukraine (Video). Dzvensylava seems to be in Czech Republic and is confronted with antipathy and racism (Video). Just like Valerie who obviously does not meet racist expectations of a refugee (Video). Ukrainian MP Kira Rudik (Backstory) remains in Kyiv (Video).
⚡ Sam Gregory, program director Witness.org, asks TikTok to protect frontline creators and preserve evidence. The platform needs to learn from the wartime failings of other social media companies, argues Gregory for Wired. Thanks for the mention Sam 🙏
✏️ Homo, Auschwitz, Porno, Sex, Terroristen
TikTok has been running a questionable word-filtering system in Germany, according to a report by German public broadcasters. TikTok has been blocking posts that contain German-language words relating to Nazis, LGBTQ culture and the tennis player Peng Shuai, according to research by NDR, WDR and ARD's Tagesschau, reports Deutsche Welle.
After being contacted by @tagesschau TikTok removed 8 words from the blocked list, including Peng Shuai, and stated it would review and reassess their approach to content moderation. It is not the first time TikTok made news with dubious techniques. And it will probably not be the last. That shows the importance of independent monitoring. Original report in german.
💃🏽 Hang on a minute – isn’t that Rosalía?
Let’s talk about Rosalia and Train Guy (#66, #67) for a bit. Rosalia is a Spanish popstar. You might know her because you are into Flamenco, have seen Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Pain & Glory’, listened to Grand Theft Auto Online radio station, Motomami Los Santos, curated by Rosalía and Arca or you have seen her collaboration with Travis Scott or you are walking the kids to school
in Berlin and have seen posters.
Last week Rosalia performed “a unique livestreamed experience on TikTok”. It is worthwhile. Rolling Stone: The trippy, campy, strange video is now available to watch on YouTube — and it’s meant to be viewed from a mobile device since the camera spins from a wide view to a vertical view and flips around throughout.
Okay, and now over to Franics Bourgeouis aka Train Guy. The gods of marketing brought Rosalia and Francis together. And then this happened. “who in rosalias promo team got her to this???????? and they better get a PROMOTION”, comments user @thepablobbrooks. Yes. There is a second video too. And here is the NME.
🤾 What else?
🎾 Content Moderation
In #71 i wrote about content moderation on TikTok. NPR has met with a former content moderator suing TikTok over emotional toll of 'extremely disturbing' videos. Quote: “Moderators like Young and Velez are expected to review videos "for no longer than 25 seconds" and decide with more than 80% accuracy whether the content breaks one of TikTok's rules, according to suit. To meet quotas, the suit alleges, moderators often watch multiple videos at once.”
🎾 TikTok Vote
Is the app the next frontier of political campaigning or just another place to burnish one’s image, asks the NYT: Securing the TikTok Vote. In Europe the first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on 10 April 2022. And guess what?! French presidential candidates fight for youth vote on TikTok (France24). Meanwhile in Germany President of the Bundestag Bärbel Bas has deleted her TikTok account because a video of her lipsyncing a kids song has sparked controversy on Twitter (t-online / german). Too bad that a bunch of tweets is enough to delete the account, if you ask me. Maybe TikTok is the right place to hang out if ou out of your political job anyhow. Meet Robert Reich: Closing in on half a million followers, the 75-year-old Clinton-era Labor secretary and current Berkeley professor is an unlikely figure on the short-attention-span video platform (Fast Company).
🎾 Take me to the movies
After the TikTokification of the Cannes Film Festival (#75) Vanity Fair asks, if
TikTok can save the Oscars? Meanwhile i point you to an article and Twitter thread on TikTok’s silent film aesthetics by Christian Albrecht. It is in german but definitely worth the Google Translate.
🎾 Vlog my life away
Create fashion trend vlogs on TikTok full time. Sounds like a plan? Mandy Lee, known as OldLoserInBrooklyn, quit her job as a trend researcher to do it. I like her learnings shared here, e.g. Play the long game!
🎾 Anyway, I never liked your brownies
A strange, recent side effect of spending too much time on TikTok: Learning how to make brownies. That's because users are spamming comment sections on videos with a brownie recipe. And the thing is, it's not exactly clear why people are doing, just that they are (Mashable, Know Your Meme).
You have reached the end.