• Because of its unrestricted nature, TikTok is not an ideal app for minors especially
It's been barely three months since I wrote the column The dark side of influencers, yet here we are, debating the fate of TikTok in the country.
If you remember, I specifically mentioned the dark side of the video streaming site as a contributing factor to the laziness of the youth. I spoke about how 'content creators' (I use this term lightly) would beg viewers for gifts on their live streams. These gifts are then converted into money that the user can withdraw from the platform.
At the time of my article three months ago, I had seen some things that made me question the security features of the app. However, in three short months, I have seen and heard of a different side of TikTok that would make anyone nauseated. This dark side of TikTok, or as popularly known in Kenya, 'TikTok after midnight', shows the ugly side of an unregulated society.
You see, unlike its social media predecessors, TikTok is the least protected platform there is. Not only does it allow users to post videos of their own making, it allows users to livestream content that is essentially unregulated. By the time people report such accounts for violations, the livestream has already happened.
The worst part is that anyone can come across these disturbing videos or streams as they scroll through their home page. The TikTok home page, called 'for you page' or FYP for short, curates the videos a user is exposed to. The algorithm decides what is on the queue of a user's FYP according to their interests, location and previously watched videos. Sometimes it will throw in random videos that 'you might like'.
Because of its unrestricted nature, TikTok is not an ideal app for minors especially. The app has been the subject of controversy in most countries. In America, the CEO had to testify before Congress to vet the security of the app. In China, the makers of TikTok were forced to create Douyin, a similar version of the app that follows the country's strict regulation policies.
Other than the lack of restrictions to control what users say or post, especially during live streams, I have few qualms with TikTok. In fact, TikTok is my guilty pleasure. I have mentioned many times how I learned a lot about pregnancies and tips on babies from the app. TikTok has been my go-to app for the last two years or so. From it, I have learnt a lot about parenting. I get my daily news, I find tips on lifestyle in general and ease my tired mind as I scroll aimlessly through hundreds of videos, ranging from user-generated content to clips of shows and movies.
In an ideal world, TikTok would be the best social media app of our generation. It allows people to monetise their talents. It gives people a platform to share their experiences and knowledge as well as encourage creativity and self employment among the youth.
But if there is anything we have learnt as a society, it is that we need strict laws and regulations to control our communities and keep them from veering too far from the moral code of conduct. We cannot allow users to run amok just because we have allowed spaces for them to express themselves freely. As my media law professor would always say, "freedom is not absolute".
Instead of making rash decisions as a country to ban a platform that benefits many citizens, we need to think of ways of protecting those who use the platform for the right reasons. Just like any media platform, social media sites require strict regulation policies, and a thorough vetting process of content creators.