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TikTok, Its Proposed Ban In The USA And The Social Media Landscape In Singapore

With the US Congress grilling the CEO of TikTok, Singaporean Mr. Chew Shou Zi, making the headlines of all social media posts (especially on TikTok) for the past few days, it is no surprise people are starting to pay more attention to this hyper growing video-sharing social media app that, whether you are on it or not.

To understand why this all happened, we need to first look at the frosty relationship between the USA and China.

With China's growing dominance both economically and militarily, it is only right the current strongest nation felt threatened and the need to slow or stop the former's growth in all ways possible.

TikTok has gained immense popularity worldwide, especially among young people, especially in the USA. Due to its indirect link to China, the app has been a subject of controversy and deemed a threat to the US government's national security.

The controversy started when TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, acquired, a popular lip-syncing app, in 2017.

In 2019, concerns were raised that TikTok was collecting sensitive personal data of American users and sharing it with the Chinese government. The US government launched an investigation, which led to a potential ban on TikTok in the country.

The main concern was that TikTok could be used by the Chinese government to access sensitive information about US citizens, including location data, browsing history, and even biometric information.

The Chinese government has a history of using technology to monitor its citizens and suppress political dissent, leading to concerns that TikTok could be used to target US citizens who are critical of China.

In August 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ban TikTok in the USA, citing national security concerns. However, the ban was challenged in court, and a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the ban, allowing TikTok to continue operating in the USA.

In the meantime, TikTok has taken steps to address the US government's concerns. The company has separated its US operations from its Chinese parent company, established a US-based board of directors, and hired a US-based CEO. Territory-neutral Singapore-born Mr. Chew then took over the reins three months later in 2021 as the new CEO at that time.

TikTok has also committed to transparency and accountability, allowing third-party audits of its data security and privacy practices. Project Texas was developed where American tech juggernaut Oracle will lead the security checks and balances for TikTok, where they'll have their own employees and teams of employees to review TikTok code and software and how user data is surveyed.

Despite these efforts, we see TikTok continues to face scrutiny from the US government.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden revoked Trump's executive order but signed a new executive order calling for a review of apps with ties to foreign adversaries, including TikTok.

Fast forward to now in 2023 when the congress hearing happens, the outcome will determine whether TikTok poses a national security risk and whether additional measures are needed to protect US citizens' data.

Although it is quite clear that Congress has been biased in its offense against Mr. Chew, it will be, from what we have seen from the response of the 150 million US users on the glowing platform, a major PR nightmare for the election teams of those senators that have taken part in the hearing should a ban proceed as proposed.

Why is TikTok so popular though?

A popular saying online is that, if you want to know why is this platform enjoying so much success as compared to its more experienced and established peers like Instagram and Twitter, just search for "France Paris" in both Instagram and TikTok and see the difference in results.

While Instagram shows you the glam photos of tourists enjoying the high life in Paris, TikTok returns you with videos of major demonstrations and destructions from the French pension reform strike happening right now in Paris.

The stark contrast is a good testimony of free speech and the ability to bypass the suppression of reporting on the strike happening in Paris by the major news media.

With over one billion monthly active users, it has quickly risen to prominence, also thanks to its innovative approach to video creation, unique algorithm, and massive user base, making it a disruptive force in the social media landscape.

TikTok's success can be attributed to its focus on user-generated content and the ease of creating and sharing short-form videos.

The app's algorithm suggests videos that are likely to appeal to individual users based on their viewing history, likes, and comments.

This personalized experience has made TikTok highly addictive, resulting in users spending hours on the app daily. TikTok's emergence has disrupted the social media industry, which has long been dominated by established players like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

It has challenged the conventional approach to social media, where users consume content passively, by offering a more engaging and interactive experience.

The app's success has also forced other social media platforms to rethink their strategies and introduced similar features to stay competitive.

Facebook-owned Instagram, for instance, launched its own short-form video feature, Reels, in response to TikTok's rise.

YouTube also introduced its version of short-form videos, Shorts, to attract creators who prefer the short-form video format.

Even Twitter, traditionally known for its 280-character limit, launched Fleets previously, a feature that allows users to post short-form videos.

However, despite the competition, TikTok continues to dominate the social media scene, with its innovative approach to video creation, including its extensive suite of creative tools, such as filters, special effects, and music editing features.

It has also become a platform for niche communities and subcultures, allowing users to connect and share content with like-minded people.

TikTok's success has not gone unnoticed by brands and marketers, who are now using the platform to reach younger audiences.

The app's advertising revenue is projected to reach $3.5 billion in 2021, making it a lucrative platform for brands looking to connect with Gen Z and millennial consumers.

Social Media Landscape in Singapore in 2023

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, and Singapore is no exception. With a highly connected and digitally savvy population, social media has become a vital tool for communication, information sharing, and entertainment.

This is also why any new social media that is making waves overseas will most probably be able to capture a good crowd here in Singapore as well since the community, especially the younger ones, is always thirsty to try anything shiny and bright.

Will the ban, if it happens, in the US affect how we use TikTok in Singapore?

The short answer is yes.

This is because most of the content that we are consuming on TikTok in Singapore is primarily in English since that is our most commonly-used language.

Taking away the content generated by 150 million users from the platform is going to make it less interesting, especially for the English-speaking crowd.

Our small population will not be able to generate enough interesting content to satisfy the appetite of the users and the platform may slowly slip into a decline before another better player or copycat joins the fray.

Nonetheless, there is never a shortage of options for the media-hungry community in Singapore, and here is a list of the surviving social media platforms used by Singaporeans still in 2023:

  1. Facebook With over four million active users in Singapore, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform in the country. It is used mainly for sharing news, connecting with friends and family, and joining various interest groups. Facebook is also a popular platform for businesses to connect with their customers and advertise their products and services. The numbers are not looking pretty though and its mainly used by the older generation (Gen Z or older) with not much luck seen on the younger demographics audience.

  2. Instagram Instagram has quickly risen to become the second most popular social media platform in Singapore, with over 3 million active users. It is a photo and video-sharing platform that is popular among younger demographics, making it an ideal platform for brands looking to reach millennials and Gen Z. Instagram is also a popular platform for influencers and content creators, who use it to showcase their work and connect with their audiences.

  3. TikTok According to a report by We Are Social and Hootsuite, as of January 2022, TikTok has 3.3 million active users in Singapore, making it the sixth most popular social media platform in the country. Our main lead of the article, TikTok, has seen its popularity on the rise in recent years, particularly among younger demographics, and it has become a platform for entertainment, creativity, and social connections. It seems set to stay and grow but the ban, if effected, may slow its progress down by a little giving other social media the needed room to breathe and regroup.

  4. YouTube YouTube is the world's largest video-sharing platform, and it is no different in Singapore. It has over two million active users in the country and is used for entertainment, education, and information sharing. YouTube is also a popular platform for content creators, who use it to showcase their work and monetize their content.

  5. LinkedIn LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals, with over two million users in Singapore. It is used mostly for networking, job hunting, and sharing professional content. In short, it is mostly corporate. Show your thought leadership, share your expert views on industry topics, and try to make some connections in the hope of climbing higher on the corporate ladder. LinkedIn is also a popular platform for businesses to connect with their customers and potential employees.

  6. Twitter Twitter has over one million active users in Singapore and is used for news, information sharing, and social commentary. Even before its purchase by Elon Musk, it has been a popular platform for journalists, politicians, and celebrities, who use it to communicate with their audiences. Many from the cryptocurrency and NFT domains are using it to build their communities too.

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