The popularity of TikTok seems to have reached the corridors of political power. Political agencies, campaigners and strategists are reportedly planning to increase their presence and content on the ByteDance-owned short video platform for the upcoming elections in India.
The move comes after the social video app touched 1.5 Bn downloads worldwide on the App Store and Google Play with India leading the chart with 466.8 Mn installs, which is about 31 percent of all installs.
The political agencies have been closely watching the increasing reach of the app and are planning to leverage it for political mileage.
“We are considering TikTok very seriously for elections. It has emerged as an addictive platform for the youth. As an organisation, we will try to leverage it in a way that will not seem political,” said Naresh Arora, director of DesignBoxed, was quoted as saying by ET.
DesignBoxed handled social media campaign of Congress in the general elections.
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Though the ByteDance-owned short video platform is available in around 150 markets, most of its new downloads come from India. The format — videos synced to music — seems to have clicked well with Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and rural population as well as urban India.
TikTok had earlier come under scanner for allegedly promoting the sharing of pornography and obscenity. The app was also banned by the Madras High Court on the same grounds and the news gained media attention globally. However, the company’s damage control measures brought it back on track. The company popularised bite-sized e-learning content across India and more than 10 Mn pieces of content were created and shared using the #EduTok hashtag.
“TikTok’s credibility, which was previously under a cloud, has gone up. TikTok will be big in terms of opinion making in the upcoming elections. It’s all about how creatively advertisers and users leverage the platform,” Arora said.
Social Media’s Stand Against Political Ads
Cyber experts across the world have been asking for a ban on all political ads on social media platforms. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a ban on all political advertisements, albeit with “a few exceptions” like voter registration ads. The announcement was welcomed by many.
Twitter, in fact, blocked state-controlled media outlets from advertising on its social network in August this year, though many have alleged a bias on Twitter’s part in other political matters.
Bytedance has also been saying that it would not allow political ads on the platform. However, digital agencies have been saying that there are ways of promoting the desired political content on the app through other ways.
Facebook has however been facing criticism from various quarters, including from the US Democratic presidential candidates for the 2020 election, on its decision to not fact-check ads run by politicians. Twitter and Facebook have been under the scanner for political ads that spread false information in an effort to influence elections.
In India, Twitter had committed to taking a more stringent view of political advertisers in India ahead of the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. A voluntary code of ethics was developed by the internet and mobile association of India (IAMAI) and was submitted by the Election Commission of India before the general elections.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube also agreed to cooperate with the Election Commission of India and said that only pre-authorised Indian advertisers would be allowed to run political ads on their platform. Participants also agreed to take action on content reported by the electoral nodal officers.