The DHS alert shows concern that TikTok — already under scrutiny for possibly sending people’s data to China, accusations the company denies — has become a hotbed of extremist activity and that law enforcement enforcement will have to pay closer attention to a platform more associated with viral dance videos than far-right radicalism.
The transparency watchdog Property of the People obtained the document through an open records request and shared it with POLITICO. The group has been conducting a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act-based investigation looking into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
In a response to POLITICO, TikTok said it is working to counter extremism. “There is absolutely no place for violent extremism or hate speech on TikTok, and we work aggressively to remove any such content and ban individuals that violate our Community Guidelines,” spokesperson Jamie Favazza said in an email.
Until now, security agencies have paid more attention to the likes of Facebook and YouTube for their roles as potential breeding grounds for hate speech and real-world violence. But as young people turn away from their parents’ social media networks to newer upstarts, these platforms like TikTok are emerging as sources of concern and potential radicalization.
DHS said that it issued the alert specifically about TikTok, in part, because of “some Homeland Security stakeholders’ limited awareness of its functionality.”
While the document shows that DHS is trying to keep up with extremists’ preferred practices and platforms, it may still be behind the curve.
Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said American national security agencies have struggled to keep up with changes in social media.
“The extremism research field itself is pretty slow on TikTok,” said Hughes, whose organization receives some DHS funding. “There’s something to be said about the demographics of researchers — they tend to skew older. Very few can hear the first five seconds of a TikTok video and know what song that’s referencing.”
Hughes said TikTok is very efficient in bringing extreme content to its users, and that it is “awash” with videos promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. (TikTok announced a ban on QAnon content last year.)
“The TikTok algorithm is so good that before you know it, you’re on a domestic violent extremism spiral,” he said.
The DHS report made a similar point.
“TikTok’s application layout and algorithms can unintentionally aid individuals’ efforts to promote violent extremist content,” the report says.
“A user’s account may have zero followers but could have substantial viewership on some videos, which could aid violent extremist TikTok users in evading TikTok’s content moderation efforts,” it continues.
The DHS document flags several instances of extremist posts promoting violence throughout 2020 and in the lead-up to the insurrection at the Capitol. Ahead of the Jan. 6 riots, one TikTok user posted a video encouraging those attending the protests to bring firearms. Others users shared videos in early- to mid-2020 with instructions for sabotaging railroad tracks, accessing the White House through tunnels, and interfering “with the U.S. National Guard during riots,” the alert said, citing DHS and law enforcement reports.
Groups involved in the Jan. 6 violence used a range of digital platforms to share debunked claims about electoral fraud and organize on that day. The House select committee investigating the attack has asked numerous tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Parler and TikTok, to hand over reams of internal documents so policymakers can understand their role in the violence.
But the DHS alert, issued months after those protests, shows its concern about extremism on TikTok is growing.
The DHS alert said a U.S. intelligence center also found evidence that foreign extremists use TikTok, including a pro-ISIS group that posted an English-language video in August 2020 with instructions for “manufacturing explosive compounds.” And it said that in October 2019, “ISIS militants abroad posted videos from 24 TikTok accounts depicting ISIS militants with corpses, guns, and other individuals declaring their support for religiously motivated violence and ISIS,” citing reports from information-sharing hubs used by law enforcement.
The DHS document added that TikTok took down those accounts after a newspaper flagged them.
The department also cited the conviction of a Pakistani imam in Paris who had promoted terrorism on the platform by calling for violence on non-Muslims and lionizing the terrorists who had attacked journalists at Charlie Hedbo, a French magazine, according to local media reports.
Both domestic and foreign groups “are exploiting standard features on the platform to evade the platform’s detection and removal efforts,” concluded the document. OODA Loop, a website run by a global strategic advisory firm, first reported on the document and made portions available.
The DHS document sketches together an overview of the extremist threat for the country’s law enforcement agencies. It says domestic and foreign groups have been active on the platform since at least 2019 and “have used TikTok to recruit adherents, promote violence and disseminate tactical guidance for use in various terrorist or criminal activities.”
The five-page analysis, though, is limited in scope, mostly providing a high-level view on how the app operates and what extremists are able to use the platform for to post violent or hateful material.
In recent years, domestic security agencies have increased their focus on combatting the rise of white supremacist and far-right groups based in the United States. But the U.S. counterterror apparatus still focuses far more attention on countering foreign groups. The DHS document highlights how federal agencies are waking up to the potential threat of domestic and international groups using the network to radicalize people
White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Islamic extremists have flooded TikTok in recent years, often using some of its signature features — like the ability to splice multiple videos into the same post — to create viral content promoting antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ+ messages. In June, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that tracks online extremism, found more than 1,000 such videos within a one-month period, including one showing a replica of the Auschwitz concentration camp built with the Minecraft video game and others lionizing fascist leaders from the 1930s.
TikTok subsequently removed all of those videos.
In the first three months of 2021, TikTok said it removed more than 90 percent of posts that broke its content policies within 24 hours of such material being posted. The company took down more than 61 million videos for policy and guideline violations during that period, it said earlier this year, adding that this amounted to “less than 1% of all videos uploaded on TikTok.”
Still, the Chinese-owned app’s struggles to tamp down content boosting white supremacists and domestic terrorists contrast with its robust approach to other controversial content.
Compared with other social media platforms, TikTok has a record of aggressively using content filters and automated algorithms to wipe material deemed problematic before it can gain a large online following. And its content moderation practices have created a string of controversies.
A top TikTok executive told British lawmakers last year that the app had previously censored content related to what she called “the Uyghur situation” in an effort to keep conflict off the platform. Beijing’s repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities living in China has drawn condemnation from human rights groups. The executive later walked back her testimony, saying she misspoke.
The Intercept reported last year that TikTok executives had told moderators to “suppress posts created by users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform.” A TikTok spokesperson told The Intercept those rules were “an early blunt attempt at preventing bullying” and are no longer in place. TikTok has also apologized for suppressing LGBTQ+ content, as Reuters reported.
And MIT Technology Review recently detailed an episode in which a TikTok product allowed content touting Nazism and antisemitism but automatically removed posts saying “Black lives matter” and “supporting black success.”
TikTok Expands Creator Tipping and Video Gifts, Providing More Monetization and Marketing Options
TikTok continues to expand its creator monetization tools with the addition of video tipping and virtual gifts for regular uploads, in addition to live-streams in the app.
To be clear, live tipping and digital gifts have been available for selected live-stream creators via its Creator Next program since last year. This new expansion brings the same functionality to regular TikTok videos, which will add another way for users to generate direct income from their TikTok videos.
As you can see in these screenshots, shared by social media expert Matt Navarra (via Dan Schenker), to be eligible for the new Creator Next program, users will need to have at least 1,000 followers, and will need to have generated more than 1,000 video views in the previous 30 days.
Though TikTok does note that these requirements vary by region – TechCrunch has reported that creators need to have at least 100k followers to qualify in some cases.
As explained by TikTok:
“The new Tips feature allows people to directly show gratitude to creators for their content, much like recognizing exceptional service or giving a standing ovation. As is standard for tipping in person, with Tips creators will receive 100% of the tip value.”
Tip payments will be processed by Stripe, with creators required to sign up to manage their earnings in the app.
“With Video Gifts, also available today, creators can now collect Diamonds not only by going LIVE but also by posting videos. This also gives people an all-new way to interact and engage with content they love.”
That will provide expanded capacity to generate real money from posting, without having to go live, which will open new doors to many TikTok creators.
In addition to this, TikTok’s also lowering the threshold for those who can list their profiles in its Creator Marketplace brand collaboration platform, which enables businesses to find TikTok influencers to partner with on in-app campaigns.
Up till now, creators have required 100k followers to qualify for these listings, but now, TikTok is reducing that number to 10k, which will further expand available opportunities for both users and brands.
That could make it much easier to find relevant creators to partner with, in a lot more niches, which will add more considerations into your TikTok posting and engagement process.
As noted, these are the latest in TikTok’s broader efforts to provide comparable monetization opportunities, in order to keep its top stars posting to the platform, as opposed to drifting off to YouTube or Instagram instead, which have more established monetization systems.
The advantage that other apps have in this respect is that longer videos can include pre-roll and mid-roll ads, facilitating direct monetization, which TikTok can’t utilize given the shorter nature of its clips. As such, it needs to look to alternate funding methods, which will also include eCommerce listings, with direct product displays now the primary source of income for the Chinese version of the app.
The platform’s continued growth facilitates even more opportunities in this respect, with more brands looking to tap into the various opportunities of the platform, and partner with creators to maximize their presence.
How popular, and valuable, direct tipping and gifting can be is more variable, as some dedicated fan bases will pay, while others will see no reason to donate for what they can already access for free.
But even so, it adds more opportunity, and the lower thresholds for monetization will see many more opportunities across the board in the app.
Shorter Videos Are In Demand. Here’s How Different Social Media Platforms Are Reacting.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With TikTok and Instagram Reels slowly conquering social media marketing, there’s no mistake: Short videos are in demand.
The average length for most, if not all, business videos is only six minutes long. And that number is set to decrease as consumers look for shorter videos.
With that in mind, why are short videos in demand? What platforms are implementing short-form videos the best? And most importantly, how can they benefit your business?
TikTok – Changing consumerism, one video at a time
Where shorter videos are concerned, TikTok has always led the industry. What started as a merger with Musical.ly quickly became one of the world’s most powerful social media platforms. And what made it so famous? The same concept that made Vine viral short videos.
TikTok has over 1 billion active users, twice as many as Snapchat and Pinterest. For reference, Twitter only has 397 million users. With such a massive user-base, the only thing keeping the platform alive are the 15-second-long videos.
But why are short videos so popular? Simple – people don’t have time on their hands. When they open apps like TikTok and Instagram, they’re more likely to spend time watching shorter videos. And businesses are already catching up.
The impact of Instagram Reels
With the invention of Stories by Snapchat, other platforms like Instagram caught up on short videos. Instagram Reels presents adults and young users with a more straightforward way to tell others about their day. It employs quick photos and videos that are only available for 24 hours instead of being permanently posted. Now engagement is encouraged, especially after Instagram included the “Swipe” option. This has allowed e-commerce sites to both advertise their products and make instant messaging easier.
Youtube has joined the bandwagon
While YouTube is more or less a platform for long-form videos, its recent update offers shorter vertical videos. Known as YouTube Shorts, the feature allows creators to engage with their audience in under 60 seconds.
But YouTube has another trick up its sleeve, and this one is mainly towards advertisers. It is “YouTube TrueView” and is the primary advertising technology for YouTube. Through this, advertisers can promote long or short videos, with some being skippable after five seconds.
However, since most people are unlikely to click on longer ads, YouTube now offers 6-second non-skippable ads. The clickthrough rate for shorter 15 and 30-second ads is around 70%, a whopping number for any business.
It’s time to say goodbye to IGTV
With Instagram’s IGTV coming off as less captivating than its Reels and video posts, it has decided to remove IGTV. Instead, it has a separate section for videos. These videos will appear on a person’s profile and can be viewed from the Instagram app.
The change they made here is that videos posted to the Instagram feed can be up to 60 minutes long. The exact reason for doing this is not confirmed. But it seems like Instagram wants a seamless platform where short and long videos co-exist.
This makes long videos more accessible to users using the Instagram app. And it helps promote video tutorials that people typically do not consume on social media apps.
Another significant change is that Instagram videos that are longer can be monetized, a feature not available on Reels. This significantly shifts the focus towards creators who don’t sell a service and want to gain cash through Instagram.
Does this mean long-form videos are out of the picture?
With short-form videos becoming more popular among consumers, will long-form videos die out? While it’s highly recommended for any business to create videos as short as possible, the answer isn’t that black and white.
While short-form videos will drive traffic from new users, long-form videos are better for brand loyalty. Shorter videos will get more engagement and show up on new users’ feeds. But longer videos will be the backbone of your business.
Of course, that depends on what service you’re offering. Ecommerce companies will want to direct their attention towards short-form videos and ads. However, long-form videos are better suited for when you want to go in-depth about product details. That is, of course, only after you’ve grabbed the user’s attention with a short-form video.
Companies that offer webinars will benefit from longer videos. And so will companies that post interviews. However, promos and how-to videos should remain under a minute or two, depending on how long the tutorial needs to be.
Essentially, ask yourself two questions:
- First, can the video content be summarized in a short-form video?
- Do you want to merely catch the attention of the consumer or develop brand loyalty?
The correct formula is neither short nor long, but a mix of both.
What this all means for an entrepreneur
Short-form videos hold substantial market value, especially for new businesses. Take the example of the Dollar Shave Club. What started as a viral video on YouTube grew to become a behemoth of a brand.
And that’s not where the examples end. There are countless success stories like this one that prove the value of short videos.
Short videos have a higher clickthrough rate, and for entrepreneurs, that’s all you need. Short videos are of particular interest to people with ecommerce businesses. For example, 84% of people say they are more compelled to buy a product by watching a video. And the statistics keep on showing a friendlier short-video market.
There is no doubt that short-form videos are gradually creeping up the graph. And while long-form videos are great for information and brand loyalty, shorter videos are better for PR.
This begs one last question: Are videos beneficial for you? The answer is – yes!
How to Make a TikTok Video: Beginners Start Here
And with 1 billion monthly active users, it’s time to join the action and get your brand out there to a wider audience!
Want to learn how to make a TikTok Video but don’t know where to start? Don’t sweat it! We broke down all the steps and tools you’ll need to make a viral-worthy first video and make sure your debut is anything but cringe.
Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to prioritize and plan your social strategy in 2022.
How to create a TikTok account
First things first, you’ll need to create a TikTok account.
There are different ways to sign up for one: you can use your phone number, email address or social media account. Here’s how to do it using your phone number.
1. Download TikTok from Google Play or the App Store.
2. Open the TikTok App on your iPhone or Android.
3. Click the “Me” or “Profile” icon at the bottom-right of your screen.
4. Choose a method to sign up (we’re choosing “use phone or email”)
5. Enter your birth date and phone number (make sure this is accurate because it’s how you’ll retrieve passwords and confirm your account).
6. Enter the 6-digit code sent to that phone number (see, told ya!)
7. You did it! Celebrate by scrolling TikTok for too many hours.
How to make a TikTok video
Here’s how to get started on your very first TikTok video. Luckily for you, it’s way easier than learning this TikTok Shuffle dance.
1. Hit the + sign at the bottom of your screen.
2. You can upload photos and videos from your phone’s library or make a video directly using the TikTok camera.
3. If recording directly, hit the Record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit it again when you’re done recording. The default video mode is “Quick” which is for 15 second videos but you can switch it to “Camera” for more editing options and longer videos (15s, 60s and 3 mins), or “Templates” to create a specific style of video.
4. Tap the check mark when you’re done shooting all your footage.
5. Make any edits or changes on the post page. All your edits are on the right sidebar of the screen. Also, add music or sounds by hitting “Add sound” at the top of the screen.
6. Post that video and share it everywhere! Make sure to include a description with some hashtags so it finds its way to your audience.
How to make a TikTok with multiple videos
Instead of taking one long video, why not capture shorter videos and edit them together to make your TikTok video? Here’s how to do that (and you don’t need a film degree).
1. Hit that “+” sign to start your video
2. You can either shoot multiple videos directly by hitting that record button after each clip, building up your video with different shots. Or, you can hit the “Upload” button next to the record button and add multiple videos and photos you have stored on your phone.
3. Select all your media and tap Next.
4. You can now sync sound across your videos and make adjustments (or try “Auto sync” which will do the syncing up for you.)
5. Hit Next when done. You’ll be brought to a preview screen where you can further add sounds, more effects, text, and stickers.
6. Tap Next when you’re done editing your video and proceed to the Post screen.
7. Remember to throw in a description and some hashtags and bingo-bango-bongo you’re the Steven Spielberg of TikTok!
5 things to know before creating your first TikTok
TikTok style is less polished than other types of video
Don’t worry about being too precious with your videos. On TikTok, videos are meant to be candid, and natural—and they should show off your personality. Things like perfect edits, smooth transitions or flawless lighting shouldn’t get in the way of your idea and your own charisma.
Sure, there are lots of editing options, effects and filters to choose from (what the heck is the difference between B3 and G4 filters anyways?) but the real star is you —or, at least all 6 of these friends belting out Lady Gaga for the #caughtinabadromance challenge at this bachelorette. If that’s not candid, I don’t know what is.
You don’t have to dance
Good news! You don’t have to spend 2 hours trying to perfect the LaLisa dance tutorial to make sure your video stands out (unless you want to, then no judgment over here!).
There are so many different ways to engage your followers that don’t involve you popping and locking in your living room in front of a ring light (but again, no judgement if you do, except maybe from your pet and their adorable judging eyes).
You also don’t have to attempt whatever this is.
Hashtags can help more people see your post
It’s no secret a good hashtag can go a long way on TikTok. Strategic use of hashtags will help people find your videos who don’t already follow you, and maybe even see it on their For You Page (FYP).
The right song can go a long way
Attaching a trending song to your video or audio from a popular TikTok video can help it get seen by more people. This app has a big music following (lots of new songs are intentionally promoted through the app to help them climb the music charts) so lassoing your video to one of these shooting stars is only going to help you get on more FYP and in front of new audiences.
Your greatest asset is you
Don’t overthink it, just come up with a simple idea and let your personality shine through. The sense of intimacy and community that TikTok brings is why people love this app—it feels personal.
Even if you’re doing a TikTok challenge or trend that’s popular, the thing that will make you stand out is your unique take on it. It’s not about gimmicks but about putting your best self out there. Nothing should feel too staged or self-aware (that’s cringe territory). Pretend your audience are your good friends and approach it with that energy!
@janikon_No, I can’t re-record this, I’m laughing too hard #fyp♬ original sound – Stu (he/him)
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