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The Impact of TikTok Content on the Taiwan Election - An Analysis

The Impact of TikTok Content on the Taiwan Election - An Analysis

  The app is a fantastic source of creativity and community engagement; however, it can also become time-consuming to keep up with all the content being produced by its users. TikTok's birth has raised fears that China may use it as an instrument of influence, with numerous reports, including from Forbes, adding to these worries. 1. TikTok’s Influence TikTok has emerged as one of the most influential political platforms in Asia despite being relatively anonymous, becoming an essential tool for parties looking to reach younger audiences in Taiwan. While this strategy may also work on other social media apps, its significance in Taiwan's political environment makes TikTok even more significant. TikTok's popularity has raised concerns that China can use it to spread disinformation and undermine democratic elections. This fear stems from ByteDance being based in China with Communist Party members working there and subject to Chinese security laws that require sharing user data with government. According to 2020 Buzzfeed Report, ByteDance instructed employees working on another of its apps prioritize videos supporting Beijing's claims about Taiwan. These concerns have led to calls for government devices to block TikTok access, like many countries including the US. Taiwan officials may not go as far as other governments due to national security and free speech concerns. Even if Taiwan banned TikTok from all government-issued devices, it may still face difficulty distinguishing heated rhetoric and misleading claims that are common during elections from state-sponsored disinformation. Therefore, Taiwan may need to formulate long-term plans to censor and regulate TikTok rather than simply banning it outright. TikTok has already proven successful at influencing elections elsewhere, such as Malaysia and Thailand. But Taiwan faces an even greater threat from disinformation: that of being used by the Democratic Progressive Party government to undermine public trust in them. As the government seeks to negotiate new trade agreements with the United States and other nations, election results play a critical role in shaping those negotiations and how well relations with Beijing develop on the island. With tensions rising with Beijing, it is vital that steps be taken by government officials to reduce any potential misinformation to influence election outcomes. 2. TikTok’s Content TikTok has had an enormous effect on culture at every level. Celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo have become household names while memes become bestsellers. Corporations from Goldfish crackers to Prada redirected billions in marketing dollars toward this app, creating the "quiet quitting" trend as well as coining terms like "seggs," "unalive," and "le dollar bean". TikTok provided millions of people coping with anxiety and stress relief during the pandemic with social support through its platform for social networking and documenting experiences related to pandemic. While TikTok fostered an amazing sense of community, there have also been concerns regarding privacy and safety on this platform. Critics have pointed out the flaws in its content moderation system and lack of political posts censorship by Facebook, Instagram and YouTube; furthermore it is owned by Chinese company ByteDance raising concerns that sensitive user data could be collected and speech censored at will. TikTok has experienced rapid growth, yet research on political discourse on its platform remains in its infancy. Scholars are beginning to take TikTok more seriously and assess its influence on political rhetoric. Some scholars have also conducted studies into how different political groups use TikTok to interact with each other, finding that it is often used by politicians and public organizations as an effective medium to share political messages while engaging citizens. Researchers require user-generated content (UGC) in order to gain insight into how TikTok is being utilized for political purposes, so a team of scientists has devised Junkipedia as a solution. Junkipedia allows researchers to collect, organize, tag, and analyze TikTok UGC as well as related metadata and visualize it for analysis into how the platform is being used for advocacy, activism, civic engagement or even providing insights into popular videos on TikTok. 3. TikTok’s Audience TikTok has amassed more than 1.8 billion users globally, surpassing popular social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube in terms of user base. Its success can be attributed to its appeal among young people who use it creatively by dancing or lip-synching to favorite tunes or participating in challenges such as bottle cap challenge and kiki challenge. App Store users hailing from 154 countries have access to this platform in 75 languages - making up most of its user base, which ranges between 15-25 years old. As its purpose was created to facilitate short video clips that highlight users' creativity while making others laugh, its vast majority are 15-25 year-old users. TikTok's popularity has given rise to concerns that it may be used by the Chinese government to influence elections in Taiwan. A blogger known only as Citizen V has stated that he has been specifically targeted by officials due to his videos criticising Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which have garnered the most views on TikTok. Concerns that his platform may have been compromised are shared by many. Last year, BuzzFeed published leaked audio from internal meetings at ByteDance that revealed they were tracking American users while simultaneously promoting pro-China content while suppressing critical stories about Beijing. This scandal prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to assert that stopping Chinese tech firms from accessing data about Americans must be prioritized as a top goal of the company. Disinformation spread on social media can have serious repercussions during election campaigns. Therefore, it's crucial that users are aware of potential risks before creating content on these platforms. With more brands taking advantage of TikTok platforms, competition has intensified. Therefore, it is crucial that you use tools that track trends, monitor competitor accounts and analyze influencers in order to increase your chances of success on this platform and create a fan base around your brand. 4. TikTok’s Influence on Politics TikTok's enormous reach, addictive algorithm and capacity to reinforce confirmation bias makes a profound political statement about itself. It has had a major influence over how politicians communicate with their audiences, share political information with young adults and develop political identities for themselves. As soon as it emerged in 2019, researchers and journalists have warned of its potential to spread misinformation or interfere with elections, as well as its moderation practices that could result in the censorship of politically sensitive material. Furthermore, due to Chinese ownership, legislators may be unwilling to work alongside it. National security professionals fear it could become a Trojan horse for China to gather private user data and manipulate its recommendation engine, which has been shown to favour pro-China content. Furthermore, this app has the capacity to target specific groups such as Xinjiang Uyghurs whose treatment remains an important political priority in China. Tiktok has also revolutionized political campaign strategies by using multiple channels and methods that were once exclusive of posters, billboards, and television commercials to spread its messages. Through its algorithms, Tiktok is revolutionizing how political rhetoric is shared - enabling creators to reach an audience faster than ever and turning users' feeds into political echo chambers. Tiktok remains an attractive option for political organizations despite these reservations, including one funded by taxpayer dollars, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), to promote voting in America - an aim which fits perfectly with its values of openness and participation. However, FVAP's partnership with Tiktok may prove disastrous in light of China's election interference efforts aimed at the 2020 US elections. Given current anti-Chinese sentiment and ByteDance's unwillingness to sell itself off as an American company. Instead, public pressure should continue on Tiktok to improve transparency and oversight mechanisms.

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