TikTok's US users defend for their community after Trump signs order to shut it down

By Shan Jie and Zhang Han Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/10 1:45:22

Photo: VCG

For its users, TikTok is not just another social media app, it's part of their lifestyle allowing the many Generation Z'ers to share laughs, get creative and express their humor with friends and family. Some people are even using it to make a living during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

It's perhaps no wonder that the hashtag #SaveTikTok has had almost 1 billion views on the app as of Sunday.

It was a response to US President Donald Trump on Thursday signing an executive order barring transactions with TikTok's parent company ByteDance, starting in 45 days, according to a White House statement. The White House said the order was issued to address the threat posed by the video app owned by Chinese firm ByteDance.

TikTok users reached by the Global Times said that they believe that suggesting the social App can harvest user information is just an excuse. "Trump is afraid of a social media platform for children because he cannot control it," said a user.

Afraid of 'us'

Walter Masterson has been standing under Trump Tower in New York and yelling at the building to draw attention to Trump's campaign against TikTok.

"I immediately went to Trump Tower and started screaming, making a lot of noise," Masterson told the Global Times. "I want to make noise so that the entire world knew that this is Trump being afraid of 'us.'"

An actor on TV films, Masterson was unable to find work or even an audition during the COVID-19 quarantine. So he started to make videos on TikTok, and quickly got many followers. 

He usually posts humorous  videos on TikTok where his audience is "amazing and fantastic." As of Sunday, Masterson had 270,200 followers and had received  7 million likes.

When Masterson heard Trump was attempting to ban TikTok he felt "extremely upset." 

Masterson thinks Trump is still acting up over a prank in late June, when thousands of TikTok users registered for tickets to Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but then didn't attend. The Trump team claimed more than 1 million people had expressed interest in attending the rally but only about 6,000 people showed up, media reports showed.

"TikTok is a social media platform that Trump cannot control, unlike Twitter and Facebook," said Masterson.

Masterson posted the hashtag "#savetiktok," which has had more than 936 million views on the platform. Recently, he has post the hashtag "#savewechat," referring to the wildly popular China-developed social media and payment app WeChat. 

"Trump's trying to shut down the voices that don't agree with him. He's afraid of a video-sharing platform for children," Masterson noted. "Shut down a social media platform because our president doesn't like it. It is not how we do things in America."

He said that every social media platform harvests information every day. "If he [Trump] really wants to control the platforms, he should shut down all of them, or regulate them, instead of only targeting TikTok," he said.

A 28-year old Chinese immigrant in North Carolina, also believes Trump's attack on TikTok was more about revenge than dealing with a real security threat. 

"It's like every other social media app, pushing video clips to you based on your interest. Few people here know it's Chinese and it suddenly became an issue, said the man who required anonymity, told the Global Times. 

TikTok doesn't have many bargaining chips. If it quits the US , most users will quickly turn to other platforms, and leading vloggers who have many followers on TikTok would be hurt, he said. 

Save the community

Many other younger TikTok users have been working to save the platform.

In the US, about 45 percent of teens aged between 13 and 16 have downloaded TikTok. As of May this year, TikTok has been downloaded 165 million times in the US, accounting for 8.2 percent of the global total. In June, TikTok topped the list of downloads on Apple Store and Google Play in the US.

Sofia Lee, a high school junior living in Dallas, Texas, identified herself as an average Generation Z TikTok user. She has about 100 followers who are mainly her friends. She posts occasionally and says she's not a "dedicated creator." 

Lee says she watches a variety of topics ranging from politics and activism to cooking and drawing. She usually shares dance videos she and her friends make or some trending magic tricks. 

Lee says Gen Z-ers have played other tricks on Trump, such as leaving unpaid merchandise in their online shopping cart on his website. "It's no secret that this generation leans left, so most political content on TikTok is critical of Trump."

Lee believes Trump's targeting of TikTok stems from the national embarrassment in Tulsa, and the fact that many teens don't read Twitter and prefer to get information from the video platform. 

"There's also the supposed 'security concern,' but I'm highly doubtful that it's true," Lee noted. 

Lee said she needed speak out against the "childish attack" on TikTok, a platform that's helping bring together teens and is creating a new online culture, and pushing some teens to become more politically involved. From Lee's experience, TikTok functions a little like Tumblr in that different groups and niches congregate on the app, often making friends in the process. Different generations have different social media sites, and for Generation Z it's TikTok. 

Lee has some concerns if another company acquires TikTok, and recalled the Yahoo-Tumblr fiasco, when the app declined after it was purchased by Yahoo  in 2013. 

"But I'm optimistic. It's obvious that TikTok is here to stay, and teens will go out of their way to use it." 


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