MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network): Amid the controversies and criticisms surrounding the partly Chinese-owned app TikTok, the platform’s audience shares continue to skyrocket in the Philippines, among the top countries where people seeking instant fame have been gobbling up the technology like crazy.
TikTok, a short-form video hosting service app, is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which also owns the app’s Chinese counterpart, Douyin.
From its initial release in 2016, the app’s global popularity massively grew, with over 2 billion mobile downloads worldwide as of October 2020 and an estimated 1 billion global monthly active users based on data as of September 2021.
Despite TikTok’s global success—which placed 6th in DataReportal’s ranking of the world’s most “active” social media platforms—the app now faces a slew of controversies due to concerns from online data privacy to “potential national security threat.”
In a five-hour-long congressional hearing last March 23, US lawmakers grilled TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi over the potential Chinese influence over the platform and the app’s damaging impact on children’s mental health.
Chew, however, denied allegations regarding ByteDance and its executives’ ties to the Chinese Communist Party. He also maintained that the app does not share users’ data with the Chinese government.
Aside from the US, other countries have already expressed concerns about the platform and its alleged ties with the Chinese government. Across the globe, several countries and regions have already implemented partial or total bans on TikTok, namely:
>Taiwan (app is banned on all government-issued devices)
>US (more than 50 states have banned TikTok from government devices)
>Canada (app is banned on all government-issued devices)
>European Union (lawmakers and staff were recommended to remove the app from their personal devices)
>Pakistan (temporary ban since October 2020)
Despite security concerns and several countries’ decisions to ban the app, TikTok continues to gain popularity among adults worldwide.
Data published by the company’s self-service advertising tools showed that marketers could reach around 1.051 billion TikTok users aged 18 and above as of January this year.
These latest figures indicate that marketers can reach roughly 13.1% of all the people on Earth using ads on TikTok today,” DataReportal explained.
“However, because the company only publishes advertising audience data for users aged 18 and above, TikTok’s actual audience reach rate will likely be higher than these figures suggest,” it added.
Analysis of the available global user statistics showed that the Philippines is among the top eight countries with the estimated highest number of TikTok users aged 18+ in 2023.
TikTok’s ad audience can reach around 43.4 million Filipino adults who use the app—around 37.3 per cent of the country’s population is among the app’s ad audience, according to an analysis by DataReportal.
Out of the total internet users aged 18 and above in the country, data analysis showed that 51 percent is included in TikTok’s ad reach. Meanwhile, 58.2 per cent of the country’s adult population is reached by marketers through the platform’s ad service.
The country with the biggest number of adult users, according to DataReportal, is the United States with an estimated 113.3 million TikTok users aged 18 and above.
Other countries on the list were:
>Indonesia: 109.9 million users
>Brazil: 82.2 million users
>Mexico: 57.5 million users
>Russia: 54.9 million users
>Vietnam: 49.49 million users
>Thailand: 40.3 million users
TikTok is known for its numerous viral trends — such as memes, lip-synced songs, comedy videos and skits, dance challenges, food recipes, food reviews, and others — all of which were popular among Filipino users.
As the app gained more users globally, TikTok has become more than just a social media platform for viral trends.
In November last year, TikTok’s Regional Brand Partnership Head of South-East Asia, David Gomez, announced that the app will develop new methods to support local businesses.
According to a survey commissioned by TikTok, from July 2021 to 2022, News and Entertainment grew by over 70 per cent, while Beauty and Fashion and Baby and Parenting grew by over 57 per cent and 53 per cent in video views, respectively.
A separate commissioned survey also found that 91 per cent of Filipinos come to TikTok to learn new things, from funny and entertaining content to the latest trends, while 73 per cent came to discover new brands and products and create entertaining or even educational content around them.
In terms of shopping, another TikTok-commissioned study found that 93 per cent of Filipinos discovered they were inspired by, or bought a product because they saw it on TikTok.
This translated to an influence on viewers who are 1.4 times more likely to consider a brand because of content they have seen, while 4 out of 5 users made a purchase because of a review or recommendation on the platform.
When the election season rolled in last year, TikTok became a crucial political propaganda battleground.
Throughout the election period, videos and hashtags related to the six most prominent presidential candidates — Robredo, Marcos, Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Manny Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson, and Leody de Guzman became among the most watched content on the platform.
However, historians and fact-checkers fear that TikTok could be a new means to spread disinformation that can evade scrutiny.
According to Tony La Vina, the lead convener of the Movement Against Disinformation, the platform’s feature to upload a three-minute short is “exactly why TikTok has become relevant in the context of the 2022 elections, (where) the majority of the 2022 voters are the youth vote. [That] and the nature of short-form videos itself: one (false) video can destroy hours of your work in terms of explaining something.”
Moreover, a study published by Internews in December 2021 on emerging social media platforms observed “misinformation and disinformation on TikTok videos, particularly on Covid-19 and the upcoming 2022 Philippine general elections, with fairly huge engagements, although it is difficult to discern how extensive the reach of such content is.”