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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

TikTok and Indians: Questionable content but TikTok a medium of expression for many Indians

tikTok has often been under the scanner because of the type of content that goes up on the app. From staged assaults on women to animal abuse, the app seems to house all sorts of videos whether you like it or not. 
But despite some of its controversial videos, it is still an app that has helped a lot of Indians in gaining visibility and become entertainers that are as good as some top YouTubers.
But before we talk of that, a few words about the recent buzz around TikTok, which has been generated by its plummeting ratings on Google Play Store.
It all started with a brawl between a few TikTok users and a few YouTubers. TikTok users Amir Siddiqui and YouTuber Carry Minati were protagonists in this spat.
 They both took pot-shots at each other, a few videos were removed, and YouTubers were enraged. Then started a coordinated attack on the rating of TikTok on the Play store. Millions of 1-star ratings were made and within a week, TikTok’s rating fell from around 4.5 stars to 1.2 stars.
But while the rating war was on, the controversy also brought attention to the content of TikTok. This started with Faisal Siddiqui, whose video glorifying acid attack in one of his TikTok posts, was shared on Facebook and Twitter. Faisal later apologized and his posts were deleted from TikTok.
TikTok: the platform of expression
So what is TikTok and why some people don’t like it? Most people’s aversion towards TikTok seems like a case of class war. Just because people from even the lowest strata of the society have found a medium to express themselves, the other half of the society looks down upon it. Carry Minati’s roast video seemed like one such video. 
While a lot of points he made while talking of TikTok content were perfectly fine he also made fun of the English speaking abilities of the TikTok users and used some-not-so-nice slurs against them in his roast. 
His rant against TikTok users also reeked of homophobia and this clearly didn’t go down well with a lot of people and even YouTube, which deleted his video.
The reality is that TikTok despite its flaws has given a platform to many people from different backgrounds to express themselves. These people earlier had no such platform. People from less-developed parts of the country, people from villages, people who belong to categories like LGBTQ+, all of them can be seen freely expressing themselves without being judged on TikTok.
The app has not just provided some avenue to many where they express themselves but has also helped earn some fame and money. Not bad, not bad at all.
Questionable content on TikTok
But that also doesn’t take away from the fact that everything goes on TikTok, including cringe-worthy and questionable content. 
I downloaded TikTok out of boredom during the lockdown and was surprised to see some people posting videos from funerals and hospitals. Even the dead are used as props by some TikTok users to get more likes and shares on their videos.
On the app, young children are being exposed to the virtual world sooner than they should have been. They are being taught the mannerisms of elders to get traction on the app.
 This could really mess up with the minds of the young lot and they might get obsessed with the app without concentrating on the far more important things. Sadly, the parents are the ones subjecting their kids to TikTok.
Having said that, there are some entertaining and informative videos as well on the app. While some people have taken special measures to educate their followers on COVID-19, some have grossly spread misinformation and fake news regarding the same.
Animal abuse and misogyny on TikTok
The worst side of TikTok came to the fore when a user by the name of Faisal Siddiqui glorified acid attack on women on one of its videos. In the video, he throws water on a girl's face after she leaves him for another man. 
In the next clip, the girl with fake bruises and acid burns appears. The video was taken down after it received severe backlash on the app and a complaint was filed against Faisal by NCW chief Rekha Sharma.
While this was one video that caught people’s attention, there are still many videos on the app that normalize assault on women. Although the videos are captured with consent, they reflect the deep-rooted misogyny of the users and the people who like, share, and promote such videos.
Another grave concern on the app is animal abuse. Many users torture animals, use them as props, and post videos inciting violence against animals. In one of the videos I came across recently, a puppy was dipped in a chemically-loaded tub of colors.
 His whimpers fell to the deaf ears as his “masters” carefully turned him into a prop for the videos. There are videos of people throwing street mongrels from a height only to chuckle at them later.
Although TikTok has time and again suspended and taken against such users, such videos continue to surface.

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