If we were to make a list of the companies that have benefited and suffered from the coronavirus crisis, TikTok would certainly be in the first group. The social network, already widely used before the pandemic, especially by adolescents, has consolidated and increased its audience during the quarantine that has confined a large part of the world. Now TikTok has reached 2 billion downloads and it has 500 million active users. At a time when we couldn’t leave home, the choreography, dubbing and humorous videos They have become a leisure activity and a way to better cope with an unprecedented crisis. But the app has become more than that and has gone from being just a platform with shallow content to messages with a political background.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been the missing social movement to confirm the political phenomenon of TikTok. The hashtag has had more than 2,000 million visits in the first week of June and has served to make the protests after the murder of George Floyd, a black and unarmed man, at the hands of a white police officer. The claims, however, have not neglected the essence of the social network.
In many videos, the mix of the songs This Is America, by Childish Gambino, and Congratulations, by Post Malone, has become a tribute to the movement. Messages in honor of Floyd, images of protests around the world, and even debates to two. TikTok users are using the same inventiveness to imitate a dance to the rhythm of Drake as to report racist behavior.
One of the best Tik Tok I have ever seen. #BlackLivesMatter #ThisIsAmerica pic.twitter.com/36pE12ERM0
– 🍬❤️ (@dulceebernabe) June 5, 2020
Do politics, but without politicians behind
However, political demands came before Floyd’s murder, especially in the United States. The country is at the gates of November presidential elections, in which it will be decided whether Donald Trump continues to be president or Joe Biden will take his place for the next 4 years. In February, the # Trump2020 hashtag attracted over 1 billion views. In recent months, despite the fact that the coronavirus has slowed the electoral campaign, Trump has not neglected his goals, which have not been without controversy over the management and his views on the pandemic. The users of TikTok, without a doubt, have not left them indifferent.
Great Tik Tok take down of Chief Medical Officer Donald Trump 😀 pic.twitter.com/igAFCBKNcE
– Ross Fraser (@FraseronHousing) April 24, 2020
Political concerns have also created a sense of community for some TikTok users. This is the case, for example, of Conservative Hype House, a group of young people between 18 and 27 years old who identify with republican ideology and who have more than 950,000 followers. Behind, as Madisyn Bukoski, one of the members, explained to the Financial Times, there is no political party. “We are the largest political page on TikTok. We want to spark a passion for politics in young influencers,” he said.
The phenomenon has also reached Spain. During the last month, demonstrations against the management of the pandemic by the Government of Pedro Sánchez took place in Madrid and other Spanish cities. In a moment that caused the division of many Spaniards, especially after many marches were concentrated in upper-class neighborhoods, the networks have echoed. At TikTok, this discontent has come with viral challenges like “Cayetano tag”, the label with which young people answer ten questions that supposedly define their ideological inclination. Questions like if they carry the flag of Spain, if they study in a private school or if they would vote for a right-wing party.
@_davidcaraballo_ CAYETANO ## viral ## parati ## fyp ## fouryoupage ## boy ## covid ## cayetano ## tag ## school ## trending ## trendingvideo ## friends ## exam
♬ Tag – theubeda
At TikTok not everything is rosy
p> The power that TikTok may have in the political sphere is still difficult to determine although its influence, especially in adolescents, is obvious. In this context, some experts point out that this platform may not be ideal for objectives beyond videos with choreography and jokes. Despite the fact that the #BlackLivesMatter movement has had a lot of relevance on the social network, it was the same that was involved in a controversy for being accused of censor content of people who did not follow a specific stereotype of beauty.
According to an article in The Intercept, the platform would have developed an algorithm to distort videos of people who had an “abnormal body shape, beer belly, obesity” or who had “ugly facial features or deformities “, as well as that of those who recorded their videos in a” dilapidated or ugly “environment.
TikTok banned election announcements on the platform last year, although the policy is still present in the app. Young people are shaping political discourse and, for now, there is no indication that organizations or parties are behind this type of content. In this context, these videos are creating a new way of interacting with politics.
Politicians, TikTok is the key
While on Twitter the goal is to have contact with leaders, in TikTok this is not the objective. Users do not ask questions that they hope will be answered, in most cases the messages are not even directed at a specific party or politician. For them, the goal is Express oneself through jokes, music, lip sync and dancing.
Political institutions are not invited to respond to this type of content, at least not what is expected of them. But, in the long run, TikTok, like other social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, will be part of the communication strategy of political leaders. Several studies have shown that politicians who have a presence in networks have a better assessment by young people. And there is no doubt that if someone wants to empathize with teenagers today, TikTok is an indispensable tool.
It is still early to know the real impact that the platform can have on public opinion and politics, although the current situation holds a promising future for the social network as feedback generator. Despite the fact that entertainment continues to be the platform’s bet – for the time being very fruitful – some young users are taking this goal further and mixing it with messages loaded with political undertones.
Movements as intense as #BlackLivesMatter will come, the American elections are just around the corner and politics will continue to mark our lives. And, from the looks of it, TikTok will be there to sing it, dance it and discuss it.