With TikTok banned, old wounds have been scratched up again. The internet flooded with online clashes between fans and haters of TikTok, as soon as the ban was announced last night amidst rising tensions between India and China. The central government issued the “interim” ban on 59 Chinese-made apps citing data privacy concerns and possible breach of security. This decision comes as a blow to TikTok users and content creators, some of which had risen to star status on the platform with millions of fans behind them.
As a consequence, the internet is full of TikTok versus YouTube debates. Last month, CarryMinati’s viral TikTok roast had sparked a digital forest fire, leaving social media divided. This time around, the discussion has a new spin. Ardent fans of the YouTuber are celebrating the ban with loud cheers, hailing CarryMinati as a “winner” and the “happiest person on the internet.” Support for him is being appended with cocky “told you so”s and memes directed at TikTok creators and users.
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What Does The Ban Mean For TikTokers
TikTok was among the most popular apps in India and had hit the whopping 116 million download mark this year. Names of Faisal Shaikh, Jannat Zubair, Garima Chaurasia, Avneet Kaur, Riyaz Aly, Nisha Guragain had become synonymous with TikTok in India, as these content creators had become literal celebrities on the video-based platform. Each of them had a following count in millions (Aly led the game with 42.8 million), and were pulling in large sums of money through sponsored ads and brand endorsements.
With the imposition of the ban, it practically means that the creative world these users had built from scratch have now been snatched from them overnight. Scores of videos, billions of likes, throngs of viewers, sources of livelihood – all gone. Although the intersectionality of social media had rendered TikTok stars famous on Instagram as well now, they had kept much of their content exclusive to TikTok. “I didn’t use Instagram as a platform to post regular videos as it doesn’t provide the reach we were getting on TikTok,” a popular creator told Gadgets 360 anonymously. After all, TikTok was the originating point of their fame, erected brick-by-brick with endless heart and hard work.
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Support Pours in for TikTokers
While naysayers jeer from the fences, a huge section of the social media community has risen in support of TikTok stars who have lost their community. Kusha Kapila, well-loved Instagrammer, has posted a solidarity message encouraging TikTokers to reach out to her and share their social media handles. She has promised to select a bunch of her favourites from those and help in bolstering their other social media accounts, so that they can get back up on their feet again. She wrote, “An app might be banned… your talent cannot be.” Comedians like Rahul Subramaniam and Tanmay Bhat also uploaded words of encouragement for TikTokers.
While many creators are disheartened over the ban, there has been no official statement from anyone. Taking it in their stride, several creators, including Jamie Lever (Johnny Lever’s daughter), posted farewell messages for their fans on TikTok, asking them to shift their support to other channels like Instagram and YouTube. Sayyed Arishfa Khan, former TikToker with 28.3 million followers who also boasts of a large following on Instagram, posted a light-hearted video addressing fans who would miss her TikTok videos, saying that she will keep the content coming on her Instagram profile.
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Loss of Diversity
There is a reason not everyone finds the courage to upload videos of themselves doing silly antics on Instagram, but found more comfort in doing so on TikTok. On TikTok, the audience didn’t judge. They weren’t concerned with professional camera angles or HD video quality. Despite its many criticisms, TikTok was one of the most inclusive social media platforms. It encouraged users, of any and every background, to take part in dancing, singing, and acting – activities that are considered to require glamour. Just about anyone with a camera-phone, even of the lowest budget, in the most rural part of India, could record themselves singing and dancing. Like Arman Rathod who recently went viral for his brilliant moves that were even a notch above Hrithik Roshan’s.
The discovery of new talent should never be decreed on the basis of class, caste, background, or gender. Why then, must we pit one app against the other? The TikTok versus YouTube debate should be no debate at all. Social media is a free space that should embrace diversity and welcome newcomers, a source of respite for everyone looking to switch off from the tangible world for a bit – from an overworked housewife to an aspiring singer living in a remote slum.
The burning questions we must now ask should pertain to the alternative apps TikTokers can shift to. Some users are finding a replacement in the Indian-developed Chingari app, which has already managed to garner 2.5 million downloads. The question is, how long will it take before it matches the popularity of TikTok? Will it be as representational, as diverse as TikTok was? Or will TikTokers popularise the famous content format of their app to the media spaces of Instagram and Facebook?
Tanvi Akhauri is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. Views expressed are the author’s own.