The Jakarta Post
Once banned in Indonesia, the China-based video sharing platform TikTok has been the latest global craze in recent months. (Shutterstock/XanderSt)
Once banned in Indonesia, the China-based video sharing platform TikTok has been the latest global craze in recent months.
Launched under the name Musical.ly in 2014, it was acquired by tech company ByteDance in November 2017 and was merged with the existing app TikTok.
In videos which are typically 15 to 60 seconds long, users can incorporate music samples, stickers, filters and quick cuts. With content ranging from lip-syncing or singing along to a song to doing a trick, popular TikTok videos often make their way to other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
According to Business Insider, TikTok's popularity in the United States grew since the merger and it became the No. 1 free non-gaming iOS app in the US for the first time. Reuters reported in November 2019 that 60 percent of US TikTok users were aged between 16 to 24.
It has been downloaded by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide and public figures have joined the trend, including Mariah Carey, Will Smith, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian. Regular users made famous by the app include Baby Ariel (Ariel Martin) and Loren Gray, who joined Musical.ly in 2015 and is now the most-followed person on TikTok with close to 40 million followers.
TikTok enthusiasts in Indonesia may remember Bowo Alpenliebe, also known as Prabowo Mondardo, as one of the most well-known TikTok users in the country in 2018.
Tempo.co reported that users in the country reportedly spent 29 minutes to watch, create, find and share videos on the platform, as shared by TikTok Indonesia in October last year. It also received the Best App and the Most Entertaining App of 2018 awards from Google Play.
But despite the astounding growth and numbers, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for TikTok. On July 3, 2018, the Indonesian Communications and Information Ministry temporarily blocked the app after learning it contained "pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy".
The ban was lifted one week later, however, after the ministry said that TikTok showed its commitment to deleting any negative content on the platform.
The ministry even embraced the app by creating an account in March 2019. Ferdinandus Setu, acting head of the ministry's public relations bureau, confirmed that the account belonged to the ministry with the purpose of reaching out to the youth.
In February 2019, TikTok agreed to pay a US$5.7 million fine to US authorities to settle charges that it illegally collected personal information from children.
Two months later, it was banned in India after a court in southern Tamil Nadu state said TikTok encouraged pornography and could be used by sexual predators to target child users.
In November 2019, TikTok was reportedly at risk of a security breach. Although all vulnerabilities were resolved by Dec. 15, 2019, a cyber threat intelligence company's report revealed that the breach could have allowed hackers to manipulate the content on user accounts and extract personal information.
Then in December 2019, The Verge reported that US army soldiers were banned from using TikTok on government-owned phones, for fear that the app could compromise national security or be used to influence or surveil Americans.
On Jan. 17, a district military commander in South Kalimantan banned his soldiers and their wives from using TikTok, saying that he feared soldiers using the app would create a negative image of the Indonesian Military (TNI) in the public eye.
The challenges that have gone viral on TikTok can also be on the dangerous side, resulting in injuries or even the loss of life. The recent fad of the "skullbreaker challenge" is one such example. The challenge sees two people trick a friend into jumping while the pair kick their friend's feet from behind and causing them to fall and hit the back of their heads on the ground.
However, amid the negativity surrounding the app, a moment of levity came when an Indonesian song was featured in the TikTok videos of American celebrities.
In a video that quickly went viral in the country, America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel joined forces with actor Terry Crews to react to a remix of "Bagaikan Langit" by Potret.
Potret's singer and songwriter Melly Goeslaw shared the video on Instagram.
Another video showed NBA players PJ Washington and Miles Bridges dancing along to the same song.
On a more patriotic note, the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP) even planned to promote the values of the state ideology, Pancasila, through video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, per President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's instructions.
"...when youngsters access [digital platforms], they will see people promoting the values of Pancasila while doing activities like playing soccer or singing a song," said BPIP head Yudian Wahyudi on Tuesday to kompas.com. (wng)