The social media app announced the update in a July 24 press release. "With text posts, we're expanding the boundaries of content creation for everyone on TikTok, giving the written creativity we've seen in comments, captions and videos a dedicated space to shine," it said.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that TikTok "is attempting to seize on an opening from Elon Musk's Twitter." It mentioned that the video app "has seen explosive growth in the U.S., thanks to its creative tools for short form videos and extremely effective recommendation algorithm."
"TikTok, with its growth and addictive quality, is betting that by integrating text directly into its feeds it can peel off many of Twitter's users. It is also adding tools that users can use to enhance their text posts, including sound, stickers and background colors. But TikTok – which has both fun, entertaining content and people explaining serious subjects – could be in position to steal time, particularly if it effectively integrates the text into its main feeds."
The Reporter also pointed out that Musk has made a series of "strange decisions" in recent months since acquiring the platform in October 2022. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX announced his intention to rebrand Twitter as "X" – and in line with this, the iconic blue bird logo was dropped on July 24 in favor of a stylized X logo.
Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg's Meta released Threads – which shares similarities with Twitter. Launched in early July, Threads was built off of Instagram, permitting existing Instagram users to create an account on the get-go instead of making a new one from scratch. Since its launch, it has quickly become the first viable competitor to Twitter in the text-based social media space. (Related: Meta's Threads hits 100M users a week after its launch, but immediately begins censoring "wrongthink.")
The Chinese-made app had previously been under fire for its role in becoming a platform for sexual exploitation and self-harm.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on this issue in February. It noted that TikTok "has been a magnet for children and teens, who spend more time there each day than on any other social media platform. Billions of videos are uploaded to the site each month, many starring young people singing, dancing and talking about their personal lives."
Given this, many experts have warned of the app's dangers – zeroing in on the algorithm that allows users to see the content they want to see. Two such experts spoke to the WSJ regarding this concern.
"The audience that's following these children, a lot of them are adult males that have a sexual interest in children," said Jon Rouse, who leads a unit targeting child sex offenders at the International Criminal Police Organization. "Child sex offenders will gravitate toward those where there are children. Pedophiles prefer looking at videos."
Police detective Joseph Scaramucci, who also serves as a volunteer task force officer at the Department of Homeland Security's main investigations arm, seconded Rouse's remarks on the matter. He told the WSJ: "You have young kids dancing and showing their lives all over TikTok. It makes it a one-stop shop for people looking to exploit them."
Responding to the WSJ piece, TikTok Global Head of Risk and Response Operations Suzy Loftus denounced child sexual abuse and exploitation on the platform as "abhorrent." She clarified that when the company becomes aware of such content, Tiktok "takes immediate action to remove it, terminate accounts and report cases."
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