TikTok Weaponized? Who Knows

January 10, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

TikTok Restricts Hashtag Search Tool Used by Researchers to Assess Content on Its Platform” makes clear that transparency from a commercial entity is a work in progress or regress as the case may be. NBC reports:

TikTok has restricted one tool researchers use to analyze popular videos, a move that follows a barrage of criticism directed at the social media platform about content related to the Israel-Hamas war and a study that questioned whether the company was suppressing topics that don’t align with the interests of the Chinese government. TikTok’s Creative Center – which is available for anyone to use but is geared towards helping brands and advertisers see what’s trending on the app – no longer allows users to search for specific hashtags, including innocuous ones.


An advisor to TikTok who works at a Big Time American University tells his students that they are not permitted to view the data the mad professor has gathered as part of his consulting work for a certain company affiliated with the Middle Kingdom. The students don’t seem to care. Each is viewing TikTok videos about restaurants serving super sized burritos. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

Does anyone really care?

Those with sympathy for the China-linked service do. The easiest way to reduce the hassling from annoying academic researchers or analysts at non-governmental organizations is to become less transparent. The method has proven its value to other firms.

Several observations can be offered:

  1. TikTok is an immensely influential online service for young people. Blocking access to data about what’s available via TikTok and who accesses certain data underscores the weakness of certain US governmental entities. TikTok does something to reduce transparency and what happens? NBC news does a report. Big whoop as one of my team likes to say.
  2. Transparency means that scrutiny becomes more difficult. That decision immediately increases my suspicion level about TikTok. The action makes clear that transparency creates unwanted scrutiny and criticism. The idea is, “Let’s kill that fast.”
  3. TikTok competitors have their work cut out for them. No longer can their analysts gather information directly. Third party firms can assemble TikTok data, but that is often slow and expensive. Competing with TikTok becomes a bit more difficult, right, Google?

To sum up, social media short form content can be weaponized. The value of a weapon is greater when its true nature is not known, right, TikTok?

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2024


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta