TikTok announced Wednesday new options for creators and users in an effort to limit the spread of “unkind” and “inappropriate” comments on the vertical-video platform.
The first of two changes announced is an option for creators to “Filter All Comments,” allowing TikTok creators to hide all of the comments on their videos until they approve them. As the company noted, the feature is an extension of existing options that filter spam, keywords, and “offensive comments.”
The second of the two new features, which were unveiled in a press release Wednesday authored by Tara Wadhwa, the company’s Director of Policy in the US, is a feature that will prompt users before leaving comments the app finds could be considered “unkind” or “inappropriate.”
When users attempt to leave a comment that the app deems as such, it will prompt them to edit or delete their message, reminding them of the platform’s community guidelines. The warning, however, does not prevent users from leaving the comment without amending it.
The company did not specify what words or phrases would trigger the warning for comments, though an example included in the press release involved a user receiving the prompt after attempting to leave a comment calling another user “ugly.”
In the press release, Wadhwa said the company had partnered with the Cyberbullying Research Center to further address cyberbullying on the platform.
“Creating a safe and positive app environment that allows creative expression to thrive is our priority. We’ll continue to strengthen our safeguards for users, build tools that provide people with more control to shape their experience, and keep listening to feedback from our community and experts,” Wadhwa said.
“I personally find the ‘be kind’ branding thing just really annoying,” Are, who said she has twice had her account @bloggeronpole improperly suspended by TikTok, said. “I find the ‘be kind’ expression has been co-opted by people that don’t want you to disagree with them,” Are said. “I’ve seen people getting called out for being racist answering with ‘be kind.’ So I personally am not a huge fan of framing it like that.”
“I also think that people who post those horribly offensive comments are not thinking of being kind and are probably not very kind. So I don’t think that would make a massive difference,” she added of the new prompt.
The feature allowing creators to “filter” or screen their comments before they are publicly posted puts more burden on creators to review harmful comments and determine which ones to post, she said. It could also allow users to create an echo chamber where they refuse to post comments that challenge their perspectives,” she added.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m super, super happy that TikTok is doing something about online abuse because I think it’s the nastiest place on the internet for it at the moment,” she said. “But I do feel like a lot of these techniques do put more work on creators and there’s always the potential for censorship by users who just don’t want you to post something that they disagree with.”
TikTok creators have in the past spoken out about comments on TikTok and. Half-a-dozen transgender TikTok creators who spoke to Insider in February said they’d been harassed and experienced transphobia on the platform and felt that the app’s design unwittingly accelerated the harassment. Other creators have spoken up about their experience racism on TikTok.
Many users found out what Instagram looks like without “like” counts on Tuesday after the app accidentally widely expanded a test to remove the public displays of the number of likes.
The wide rollout was because of a bug, but signals Instagram is still testing removing like counts.
Sydney Bradley broke down how a change like this could impact the influencer industry:
Seeing the number of likes is a constant source of competition for many creators, influencer Andrea Pion Pierre said.
Influencer Khadijah Lacey-Taylor said removing like counts could be an opportunity for creators to look more holistically at how engaging and enjoyable their content is.
A downside: for emerging creators who’ve quickly gained a following but aren’t on brands’ radars yet, their number of likes is one of the few ways to show influence (before sending screenshots of metrics).
Social-media influencers are using text messages to connect with fans and drive affiliate-marketing sales.
Affiliate marketing platform MagicLinks is testing a tool, called Text2Shop, that lets influencers mass send shoppable links to fans.
Sydney and I reported on how influencers are using this new tool:
Text2Shop was created by MagicLinks in partnership with the text-marketing startup Community.
College student Nazjaa Hughson has driven over $15,000 in sales since she started using Text2Shop with an average conversion rate of 6%.
Hughson wants her fans to feel like they are getting “exclusive content,” different from what’s on her social channels. She dedicates time every now and then to directly chat back and forth with her followers.
For University of California, Irvine dance and language science student Ari Pine, downloading and using TikTok was just an outlet for practicing dance in quarantine. But a couple months later, he had inadvertently launched a viral meme and developed his first sponsorship.
“I’ve been dancing in my room over Zoom for months now,” Pine told Insider. “Making TikTok videos before class was just another way to interact with people.”
In January, Pine gained over 50,000 followers in 72 hours after choreographing a video setting the audio from Grammarly’s YouTube ad to a dance – a trend which quickly picked up steam, spawning 50,000 new videos within days and over 100,000 to date.
While it wasn’t Pine’s first time creating a dance for popular commercial jingles, it was the first time a company’s jingle really took off on TikTok – in part because Grammarly picked up the trend itself.
Though Grammarly had been mostly inactive on TikTok, the company’s Head of Marketing, Senka Hadzimuratovic, said the trend caused interest in the brand to spike as Grammarly’s followers increased by 481%.
“One of our office associates saw the trend on Twitter and we knew we had to do something,” Hadzimuratovic told Insider. “There was no time to deliberate. We knew we needed to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously and that we can be part of this culture.”
After Grammarly released its own video response to Pine, Hadzimuratovic said the trend changed how the company approached the app. It helped Grammarly realize the potential for advertising on TikTok, prompting the writing-assistant company to generate more advertising plans for the app, including deciding to sponsor Pine as a Grammarly influencer in February.
For many brands, TikTok is largely an untapped platform
GrowMojo Marketing President Kendall Fargo told Insider even brands that advertise on the platform are still learning how to cater to TikTok’s audience.
“TikTok is not like other social media platforms. It’s not Instagram,” Fargo told Insider. “TikTok has a much higher bar. You need to meet people where they are. You need to make people feel like you are part of the TikTok community. If it looks like a polished marketing video, they’re just going to skip it.”
For newer brands, the app can operate as a jumping off point for marketing. Sophia Edelstein, co-founder and CEO of Pair Eyewear, a startup that garnered support from Shark Tank in 2018, said the company can count on at least 10% of its sales coming from TikTok every month.
The app has even approached Pair Eyewear as beta marketers – an update the app launched just last year. The glasses startup operates as an e-commerce company and allows users to customize and switch out frames at will for new styles.
Edelstein told Insider much of the company’s sales from the site comes from free advertising, including Pair’s Refer-a-Friend program.
“It happened organically,” Edelstein told Insider. “People wanted to connect to other people and share their look. Pretty quickly we saw the glasses go viral.”
While Pair’s own TikTok account hasn’t taken off, it doesn’t need to because millions of people have posted videos reviewing the interchangeable snap-on glasses on TikTok. Edelstein said the company has taken on TikTok influencers, but has seen most of its success through organic posts – which have brought in over $400,000 worth of sales in one month.
Paid ads on TikTok typically cost between $50,000 to $120,000, according to social media analytics site Iconosquare, but unsponsored posts from TikTok users can be a brand’s greatest asset, Fargo told Insider. As of February, the app has over 1 billion active monthly users, a number that is only continuing to grow, according to Sensor Tower.
Perceived authenticity is a key ingredient for viral TikTok trends
Fargo said authenticity or perceived trustworthiness on the app plays a big part in successful advertising on TikTok. It’s easier to disguise an ad on TikTok than other social media platforms.
“Brands can make a social post without it necessarily being an ad,” Fargo said. “TikTok also lets you see a portion of a video before it lets you know it’s an ad.”
While some brands like Coca-Cola and Mentos have spawned viral trends themselves through generating challenges, many brands like Grammarly have simply stumbled upon a trend.
“TikTok is about being in the right place at the right time,” Pine told Insider. “It’s very much a hit or miss. I did not expect the Grammarly video to do as well as it did and that’s just the name of the game, that’s just TikTok. The algorithm is like a beast you cannot tame.”
Spotify and Ocean Spray have found similar success. In 2020, Spotify’s album cover trend spawned over 2.2 billion views and a video showing Ocean Spray’s Cran-Raspberry juice generated 12.6 million likes on the app, as celebrities and everyday TikTok users rushed to mimic the videos.
Fargo said TikTok trends allow brands to take on a more personal connection with potential customers.
“It’s important brands not only build a social following, but also invest into turning those followers into customers,” Fargo said. “It’s one thing to drive awareness, but it’s another thing entirely to generate customers, and a lot of brands make that mistake.”
Almost a year ago, Chelsea Brickham posted on TikTok for the first time.
The video got more than 500,000 views. Brickham, a 38-year-old trans woman living in Florida, posted photos of her transition after seeing other trans creators do the same. About 2,000 positive and encouraging comments appeared underneath the video.
“My initial reaction to TikTok was that it was such a positive and nurturing environment,” she told Insider. “And that’s why that actually saved me. It pulled me out of that dark place at that moment. It really did wonders for my mental health.”
Brickham was days away from getting her long-awaited gender-affirming surgeries when the coronavirus pandemic caused the hospital to cancel them. Facing the cancellation, the costs of private health insurance, and a shift to telework, Brickham turned to TikTok for “some kind of distraction, and maybe brief levity,” she said.
“It kind of takes my breath away – even now, thinking back in retrospect – because every single one of those 2,500 comments was supportive and positive and just telling me things I needed to hear,” Brickham said.
Months later, the positivity came to a screeching halt.
One of her recent videos, which got more than 1 million views and wasn’t unlike the rest of her content, led to a flood of transphobic and other attacks on her appearance.
Brickham said the experience shattered her perception of the app. She wasn’t sure why this video, in which she responded to a commentator who had misgendered her, had elicited such a different response.
Most of the comments appeared to come from young, straight, cisgender men who misgendered her, she said. For these types of comments, Brickham said, she often visited the commenter’s profile to educate them.
“I just kind of deal with it with a factual, straightforward approach,” she said, adding that she often tells transphobic commentators they don’t have the “credentials” to make claims about her gender.
In one more egregious comment that Brickham reported, a TikTok user said it was a “shame” that cancer, which she’d recently had, didn’t kill her.
Trans TikTokers find community, but also abuse and harassment
In January 2020, The Washington Post dubbed TikTok “the soul of the LGBTQ internet,” adding that young LGBTQ people used TikTok “to share their raw feelings with each other” in a way not seen on legacy social-media platforms. As of this February, videos using the hashtag “#lgbtq” had more than 665 million views.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has publicly aligned itself with LGBTQ communities, and last year it donated $3 million to LGBTQ-focused organizations such as GLAAD and the Trevor Project.
But transgender creators say TikTok is an unwitting accelerator for transphobia and harassment.
Half a dozen trans TikTok creators, with a combined follower count of more than 3.1 million, told Insider that while the app had allowed them to build impressive followings and find a sense of community, its design appeared to perpetuate a culture of transphobia and harassment.
Creators detailed the harassment and abuse they’d experienced on the app; they all said they had experienced it to a greater degree on TikTok than on other social media platforms, in part because of the app’s central algorithm-driven feed. TikTok features – like duets, which allow users to respond to another user’s videos – have also been a tool for harassers.
Their concerns and experiences raise questions about TikTok’s ability to moderate content on the app.
Trans creators said their experience soured weeks after they began posting on TikTok
Last spring, before COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed, Madelyn Whitley, a 20-year-old transgender woman and model living in New York, joined TikTok. She and her twin sister had traveled to France for fashion week and were living there.
Whitley, who had about 10 followers, posted a video of her and her sister, also a trans woman and model, for Trans Day of Visibility, a holiday that honors and recognizes trans people. The video “barely took off,” gaining about 20,000 likes, she said. But the attention skyrocketed from there.
“Everyone was so nice on that first video,” said Whitley, who as of February had 300,000 followers on the app. “And then I think down the line, maybe in September, I posted another one that had the complete opposite reaction – most of it was negative.
“I remember my first hate comment,” she added. The commenter had misgendered her and told her she was going to hell, Whitley said.
“I don’t know why,” Whitley added, “but some of the comments can get really, really transphobic, and we haven’t really experienced this anywhere else.”
Hateful behavior on TikTok can take many forms, including comments, collaborations, and direct messages.
A TikTok representative told Insider in an emailed statement that the platform “is a community with millions of diverse creators, and the platform wouldn’t be what it is today without the range of voices and experiences our users bring.”
“There is no place for hate and harassment on TikTok, and we’re committed to creating a safe space for our users, continually improving our protections for the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented groups, and being an active ally,” the statement said.
In December, the company said it was updating its community guidelines to make them more “inclusive and thoughtful,” adding rules and updating policies to prohibit doxxing, cyberstalking, and sexual harassment.
But negative messages are “as small as ignorant comments of people just commenting one word, ‘woman,’ or, like, saying I can never be a man,” Aiden Mann, a 26-year-old transgender man from Tennessee who has 2.2 million TikTok followers, told Insider.
“I’ve had people who messaged me on an anonymous account and, in detail, explain to me if they had the opportunity to kill me how they would do it,” he added. Mann said others had suggested he end his life by suicide.
The ‘wrong side’ of TikTok
In essence, TikTok functions as a custom cable network. The app’s algorithm acts as a network executive, deciding which videos get spread to certain users, based largely on what it suspects to be the user’s taste because of their past behavior.
Central to TikTok is the “For You” page. While users can watch videos from a list of accounts they follow, the primary means of consumption is the seemingly infinite stream of videos found on the page.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and especially YouTube similarly offer content, curated by an algorithm, from sources beyond the users a person has followed. But none uses such a system as its primary content driver in the way that TikTok does.
“I like to think of TikTok as a broadcast platform, like a channel that you’re watching rather than a social network,” said Daniel Sinclair, an independent researcher who studies TikTok and other social-media platforms, “because although you do have access to your following, TikTok is still controlling what you see.”
It is “entirely possible” that the “For You” page, led by TikTok’s algorithm and human moderators, could inadvertently lead to harassment, Sinclair said.
“I think the broadcast-first distinction is big because it’s TikTok that’s directing content and directing what you see more than many other platforms,” he added.
TikTok first shows a video to a small batch of people it thinks will be interested in it, based on a list of factors outlined in the blog post. Some of these users already follow the creator, while others don’t. Videos from accounts with larger followings may have an advantage, but “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system,” the company said.
If the video performs well (users like or share the clip, or watch the entire video), the algorithm recommends it to more people. The process is repeated; if a video continues to be popular, it can quickly go viral.
The page has been credited with driving TikTok’s meteoric rise since the app emerged from Musical.ly in 2018, about a year after ByteDance purchased it. It has paved the way for TikTok’s culture of uber-fast virality and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trends. Users with small followings have the opportunity for viral fame – their videos can be distributed to thousands and sometimes millions of strangers within hours.
Carolina Are, who researches online moderation and algorithmic bias at City, University of London, told Insider that TikTok differed from other platforms like Instagram because the app’s algorithm and focus on short videos made it easier for content to go viral.
“Because of that, because there’s no meaningful interaction, it feels like creators do not look human to people who comment, and therefore it feels very easy to just hate,” she said.
Trans creators told Insider that the “For You” page allowed them to quickly find a community and support on the app.
But there’s a hefty con to the page, they said, in that they have little control over their audience, and the audience has little control over what shows up on their screen.
“I’m starting to understand that there are different facets of going viral on TikTok,” Brickham said, alluding to the concept of “straight TikTok” versus “alt TikTok,” in which users experience vastly different types of content, memes, trends, and creators.
“There’s obviously the GLBT-positive sort of feed. And then there’s obviously, like, the conservative side and the Trump feed. And you’ve got the heterosexual sort of feed as well,” she said.
Mann also described an “LGBTQ side” of the platform where his videos often remained. But he said his experience would swiftly sour if his content ended up elsewhere.
Fletcher Furst, an 18-year-old from Alberta, Canada, argued that the algorithm behind the “For You” page was just part of the story. Furst speculated that transphobic users search for content from trans creators via hashtags like #lgbtq or #trans, leading TikTok to recommend similar content to them in the future.
Creators told Insider that the transphobia they faced on TikTok was more intense than on other social-media platforms. Unlike other apps that rely largely on a connection between creators and their followers, TikTok creators broadcast to communities that can include not only their followers but legions of people with similar interests who’ve never seen their content before.
Suddenly, the creators said, TikTok videos can end up in an entirely different community.
“Sometimes for some reason – I have no idea why – my transgender videos end up on straight TikTok, or the conservative side of TikTok, or religious TikTok,” Mann said. “And then I get the really bad bashing and hateful comments and death threats and stuff like that.”
In contrast, he said, “on Instagram, the only people who are going to see your posts, more than likely, are the people that are following you, and then same with Twitter and Facebook.”
On other platforms, “people can share stuff, and they can get to the wrong side, but it’s a lot more difficult,” he said. “With TikTok, your video can end up on the wrong side of TikTok any day, at any time. Then when it blows up, it goes on and on.”
Trans creators say their videos were removed while abusive content remained
Samuel Monger, a 17-year-old trans man from Oregon, estimated that about 10 of his videos had been removed from TikTok, for reasons that weren’t exactly clear to him. He said the deleted videos weren’t sexual or violent but involved him speaking about his experiences as a trans person.
He said TikTok had told him that these videos violated its community guidelines. He appealed, but the videos weren’t reinstated, leaving him frustrated. He tried to re-upload videos, and they were deleted again, Monger said. He was confused about why the videos were removed in the first place, but he moved on to new content.
In one video, which the company reinstated after Insider inquired about its removal, Monger showed off different facets of his style, modeling dressed-down and dressed-up outfits.
He said other trans creators had faced similar punishments when trying to, for example, educate trans youth on how to safely bind their chest to create a more masculine or nonbinary appearance.
Monger said that while he’d never shown his chest on TikTok, it was frustrating to see cisgender men – often some of TikTok’s biggest stars – appearing shirtless in videos, “advertising their bodies.”
TikTok has previously been criticized over its moderation policies. Last March, The Intercept reported that a company memo had in some markets directed moderators to keep users that they judged to be disabled, poor, or ugly from the “For You” page. At the time, the company said that the policies were an early attempt at preventing bullying, that they were no longer in use, and that they had never been implemented in the US.
A study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre published in September found that hashtags related to LGBTQ issues had been suppressed on the platform in at least eight languages.
Sinclair speculated that the policies were designed not to mitigate harassment but to limit content the company viewed as “unsightly.” He said it pointed toward a larger issue as TikTok’s Chinese parent company expanded to new markets and navigated content moderation.
Furst told Insider he’d also had several videos removed and was told that they’d violated TikTok’s community guidelines.
“I had a video where I tried to speak up on my experience being bullied in high school for being transgender,” he said. “And that video got taken down right away. I don’t know why. They just said it went against their guidelines.
“Maybe ’cause I just mentioned being trans, but then there are videos that are still up of people encouraging harm towards trans people, and it’s just insane,” he added. “It’s like, how come that stays up and my content gets taken down?”
The video, first uploaded in November, was reinstated by TikTok in February after Insider asked the company about its removal.
In August, Eric Han, TikTok’s US head of safety, said that since January it had removed more than 380,000 videos, 64,000 comments, and 1,300 accounts for violating its policies on hate speech.
“To be clear, these numbers don’t reflect a 100% success rate in catching every piece of hateful content or behavior, but they do indicate our commitment to action,” Han said.
Han said TikTok was updating its hate-speech policy, removing hateful content from the app, “increasing cultural awareness” in content moderation, improving transparency, and working with its teams and partners “to invest in our ability to detect and triage hateful or abusive behavior to our enforcement teams as quickly as possible.”
Han also said the company was training its content moderators on the difference between a marginalized group using a slur “as a term of empowerment” and a person using the same word hatefully.
“Educating our content moderation teams on these important distinctions is ongoing work, and we strive to get this right for our users,” Han said.
Mann said he’d been frustrated by TikTok’s inaction after he reported multiple videos he found transphobic.
“A lot of the videos that I reported come back saying that it’s not against community guidelines. I’m kind of in shock,” he said. “This person is literally making transphobic comments or making transphobic jokes. How is that not discrimination?”
Furst said TikTok would be more inclusive if it allowed creators to designate their videos as “educational,” to “be able to educate people about trans stuff without it being taken as sexual and then be taken down.”
All the creators who spoke with Insider said TikTok could change its community guidelines to better protect trans users.
Otherwise, Furst said, “it definitely feels like that app just wasn’t created for you.”
Hateful comments on TikTok can have real-life effects on trans communities
“Trans youth are continually being retraumatized through harassment that they experience both in the world that they live in and also when they show up online,” Dr. Ric Matthews, a psychotherapist in New York who works with LGBTQ communities, told Insider.
But when it comes to apps like TikTok, “not using these platforms really isn’t an option at this point,” Matthews said. “It’s an inescapable way of connecting and communicating and a necessity for social survival.”
Matthews added that “when harassment, bullying, and different types of violence that they experience in these spaces happens, it’s exacerbating isolation and alienation to people who are already battling to have safety in spaces that they occupy physically.”
Harassment on social media can also set back trans youth who are developing their identities, said Dr. Melissa Robinson-Brown, a psychologist in New York who works with young people.
“I think one of the reasons it’s pretty harmful is because especially with our generation today, so much of their time is spent on social media and on platforms like TikTok,” she told Insider.
“They’re building their communities, finding their tribe and their friends,” she added. “And so to see the transphobia, to see the negativity and the discrimination, can really be harmful to self-esteem-building and that sense of self-worth that is really just so critical for youth in general.”
Monger told Insider that while he could typically brush off hate-filled comments, he worried that the transphobia could affect other young and impressionable trans people on TikTok.
“I’m confident in myself, but there are kids who are not confident in their identity,” Monger said. “And seeing people say that they want to kill people really does not help them.”
Trans youth are at a higher risk than their peers of attempting suicide. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018 detailed a survey of about 120,000 young people, conducted from 2012 to 2015, in which 51% of trans boys and 30% of trans girls said they had attempted suicide, compared with 18% of cisgender girls and 10% of cisgender boys.
Trans TikTokers told Insider that hateful messages targeted their appearance or included problematic phrases like “What’s your real name?”
Mann, who said he had struggled with his appearance after multiple top surgeries – procedures to reshape the chest and remove breast tissue that left him with scars – said users left nasty comments about his body.
“People attack that all the time,” Mann said. “I’m still hoping to get them fixed.”
Mann shared with Insider four TikTok videos posted from April to June, each with more than 6,000 likes, that made fun of his chest. He said that he’d reported the videos to TikTok but that they weren’t removed.
TikTok removed all four of the videos after Insider flagged them.
“It makes me mad that they only removed them to seem to cover their a–,” Mann said.
Jade Marie Eichelberger, a 19-year-old trans woman from South Carolina, told Insider that her experience with transphobia on TikTok involved users’ desire to hear details of her transition and the trauma of being a Black trans woman.
“They really want you to talk about everything trans-related, down from the surgeries to how it makes you feel and how people treat you,” she said. “And sometimes you don’t really want to think about that or create about that, because cisgender people are not pressured to make videos about their trauma.
“Especially trans women of color, we’re always pressured to tell stories of things that have happened to us, because people want to use us as an example as to why people should be nicer to trans folks,” she added. “They always go for the people who were the most marginalized within the community to hear those sad and traumatic stories.”
Eichelberger said her videos that homed in on her transition or her experience as a trans woman performed well, but her videos about other topics seemed to fall out of favor.
She and other trans creators often field inappropriate and transphobic requests from TikTok users asking them to show their “real voice” or to upload pictures from their childhood, she said.
She added that while some creators might not have a problem with that, the requests and pressure to make that kind of content were rude and transphobic, implying that her identity is part of a performance.
“I don’t really feel comfortable with doing that,” Eichelberger said. “Am I ashamed of my childhood pictures? Hell to the hell no. I was a cute kid. But because I know why people want to see them, it makes me uncomfortable.”
Whitley said she’d had to alter how she operates on TikTok after receiving a series of transphobic comments that were fueled by a popular TikTok creator.
Chris, known on the app as @Donelij, would use the split-screen duet feature to react to videos of gay and trans creators. Chris’ smile would turn into a frown as videos of people skirting gender norms or photos displaying a person’s transition appeared. His videos would often get more than a million views. When his account was banned, he had 2.5 million followers.
“He just kept dueting them over and over and sending thousands of transphobes to me,” Whitley said.
While TikTok banned his first account last year, Chris continued to post videos to millions of followers using other accounts. TikTok banned an account he was using in February after Insider inquired about it.
Chris told Insider he was “not transphobic” and declined to comment further. Last year, he told The New York Times that he had been the target of racist harassment on TikTok. His facial expressions’ were meant as jokes, he said.
For Whitley, the videos had consequences that were far from funny.
Whitley said she’d had to limit comments on her content to prevent users from sharing her deadname (the name she went by before her transition), her address, and her phone number, all of which she said people had threatened to post.
Whitley said that since the duets stopped, some of the negative attention had subsided – but she estimated that about half of the comments she receives are negative or outwardly transphobic. She said she’d become “desensitized” to them.
“I don’t take them to heart,” Whitley said. “I’m stronger than that, and it kind of just boosts my engagement. I’m just going to take it as a positive and move on instead of focusing on their negativity.”
Whether you’re looking something stylish, or just a new look for your favorite apps, dark mode options are there for you.
If you’re on an iPhone (sorry, Android and desktop users), you can turn on dark mode in TikTok now too. This will make normally black text turn white, and change the lighter backgrounds to black. Don’t worry about the videos though – they’ll stay the same.
TikTok removed approximately 400,000 videos for misinformation related to the US election and COVID-19 in the second half of 2020, the company announced Wednesday.
In total, from July 1 to December 31 last year, the company said it removed 89,132,938 videos globally, with 11,775,777 of those being removed in the United States. TikTok said these videos were removed for violations of its community guidelines and its terms of service.
The stats were published Wednesday in a press release authored by Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s vice president and head of US public policy, and Eric Han, the company’s head of safety in the US.
About 92% of the removed videos were deleted prior to a user reporting them, the company said. Approximately 83% of the videos were removed before anyone had seen the videos, and about 93% of the videos were removed within 24 hours of their being posted.
Of the more than 12 million videos removed, the company said it removed 347,225 videos for misinformation, disinformation, or “manipulated media” related to the 2020 election. TikTok said it deleted 51,505 videos for misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists and doctors have also used TikTok to debunk falsehoods and conspiracies and educate users about COVID-19 and vaccines amid misinformation on the platform. The company last year began labeling videos about COVID-19 with a link to a pandemic information hub. The press release on Wednesday said the label was applied to more than 3 million videos in the second half of 2020.
TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, in August updated its rules on disinformation and misinformation, creating new guidelines to prohibit synthetic or manipulated content and defining existing policies on “coordinated inauthentic behavior” relating to the election. The company also said at the time it expanded its relationships with fact-checking partners and launched a partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security.
The company on Wednesday said it was working to further bolster its effort to combat misinformation and disinformation on the platform to “better identify altered versions of known disinformation.” TikTok also said it was working to develop tools to prevent “repeat offenders” from evading or otherwise circumventing its moderation decisions.
The biggest social-media stars often have an entire team behind them made up of managers, agents, and PR pros.
While managers and agents are handling a lot of the behind-the-scenes negotiations and deals, it’s the PR agents who are out and about drumming up buzz for their clients.
From media appearances on television or in magazines to handling “bad press” moments like a scandal, PR pros are the ones hustling to maintain an influencer’s public presence.
And as the influencer industry has grown, traditional PR agencies have developed new teams and expertise in the digital landscape. For instance, Metro Public Relations, an agency based in Los Angeles and New York, represents internet celebrities like David Dobrik, who has about 26 million TikTok followers and over 18 million YouTube subscribers.
Metro PR helped Dobrik with one of his latest stunts: giving away five free Teslas in an effort to register voters in 2020. Behind the scenes of this campaign was his publicist, Megan Smith. Smith is a senior account executive at Metro PR and has worked with Dobrik since 2018, she told Insider in 2020.
Metro PR and others like Align PR (which has represented internet stars like Emma Chamberlain) were among the PR agencies highlighted in Insider’s inaugural list of the top PR agents in the influencer industry last year.
But who are the leading PR power players in 2021?
We are seeking nominations for the top PR pros and publicists who represent some of the biggest social-media influencers for Insider’s second annual list.
Please submit your nominations through this form by February 26, or enter the information below:
The list will be determined by Insider based on our reporting and the nominations that we receive.
For more on what this list will look like, check out our previous power lists on Insider:
TikTok users were being warned about risky investment advice on the social app, BBC News reported.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority told investors should be wary of any advice promising high-return investments, the report said.
“There are risks with taking unregulated investment advice and we engage with social media platforms to have pages which breach our regulations taken down,” an FCA spokesperson told Cristina Criddle, a BBC tech reporter.
Social media has been flooded with investment advice in the last few weeks, as Reddit’s Wall Street Bets subreddit banded together and fueled sky-high returns on GameStop, AMC, and other investments.
On TikTok, users were also posting about GameStop, AMC, and other Reddit-fueled stocks. The #investing hashtag on TikTok had about 1.6 billion views, and GameStop was searched about 600 million times in a single day on the app, according to MarketWatch.
Paxful, a cryptocurrency trading platform, studied how TikTok users gave investment advice, as BBC News first reported. About one in seven videos about financial investments posted on TikTok were misleading and asked users to make financial decisions without carrying disclaimers, according to Paxful.
“More than half (52%) of the influencer accounts that we analyzed had posted at least one misleading video,” Paxful said in a post, “Influencer Investors.”
One TikTok user with about 130,000 followers posted videos titled “This stock will make you rich” and “Only future millionaires can see this video!!” The videos singled out specific stocks. In the videos, the user quickly flashed the companies’ balance and earnings sheets, along with their most recent stock quotes.
“Consumers should be wary of adverts and advice online and on social media promising high-return investments, and should always do further research on the product they are considering,” an FCA spokeswoman told BBC News.
In December, Insider spoke with five TikTok creators focused on investing.
Members of Congress in total made more than 2.2 million posts to Twitter and Facebook during the 116th Congress, from January 2019 through December 2020, an analysis by the Pew Research Center published Tuesday found.
The numbers for the 116th Congress eclipsed data collected during the previous two sessions. The research center began collecting data on members’ social media usage during the 114th Congress, starting in 2015. The most recent Congress produced about 738,000 more posts on Twitter and Facebook than the 114th Congress, according to Pew.
The data comes as lawmakers call for changes to social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook. Democrats have argued social media companies are too big and wield too great of power with too little oversight, accusing the platforms of fostering extremism.
According to the study, members of Congress posted twice as many times to Twitter as they did on Facebook, though posting on both platforms has “risen substantially and consistently” since the nonpartisan think tank began collecting data five years ago.
Facebook posts and tweets received more than 2 billion combined favorites, likes, or other reactions, according to the study, up from just 356 million during the 114th Congress. Shares and retweets also increased from 110 million in the 114th Congress to 500 million during the 116th Congress.
Democrats dominated the list of members with over 1 million followers
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent and former candidate for president, had more followers than any other member of Congress with more than 21.7 million followers across Twitter and Facebook at the end of 2020. Data analyzed by Pew shows that in the 116th Congress, Democrats accounted for the majority of members with more than 1 million followers on social media.
The second-most followed member of Congress across Facebook and Twitter as of late last year was Vice President Kamala Harris, then a Democratic senator from California and the vice president-elect. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, had the third-most followers, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in fifth place.
Social media offers savvy lawmakers an alternative to reach their constituents and younger audiences
Dr. Vincent Raynauld, an Emerson College professor in Boston who studies how social media impacts politics, told Insider that the trend is unsurprising, given how members of Congress and other politicians have used social media as their primary way to reach their constituents.
Social media also affords politicians, from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Texas Sen. Tex Cruz, the opportunity to connect with their audience without the need to go through traditional media outlets, especially as the market has become crowded with fringe outlets like Newsmax and One America News, he said.
It can also allow them to spread their own talking points without pushback they may receive through participating in more traditional media avenues, like on cable news or in print. Elected officials, Raynauld said, have turned to social media especially as attacks on the press have eroded the American public’s trust in traditional media.
Raynauld said politicians and their staff who are more technologically savvy often use the platforms differently.
Twitter and Facebook are better suited for tweets about politics and general news and policy while platforms like Instagram and TikTok can more appropriately be used to build a brand that allows the public to see politicians as less political and more “human,” he said.