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Bharat shoots its Citizenship Act take on TikTok

TikTok, a short-video app popular among lip-syncing teenagers and young adults in small towns, is being used to register their protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act In fact, videos of protests overlapped with patriotic songs, poetry calling for unity among Indians, graphics explaining the repercussions of the Act and the yet-to-be commissioned National Register of Citizens (NRC), have received millions of views. There are also videos of people supporting the policy, arguing that the protests are a result of misinformation.

TikTok users posting these protest videos were not so long ago shooting videos of themselves dancing, cracking jokes and playing pranks. Its young and semi-urban user base is in stark contrast to the one found on Twitter and Instagram, which is a platform of choice for urban intellectuals, activists, the media and lawyers.

“Just as city dwellers discovered social clout on Facebook, it is now the tier 2 to tier 5 residents discovering social clout on Tik-Tok for the first time. They are discovering that their opinions matter and they are willing to express themselves,” said Karthik Srinivasan, an independent communications consultant and former national lead, social, at Ogilvy.

Facebook, which was used during anti-government protests during the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident and the anti-corruption movement, has now been relegated in terms of user expression, he added.

Hashtag #NRC got 76.2 million views, #noNRC 35.7 million views, #boycottNRC 10.6 million views and #rejectNRC got 6.3 million views, according to data available on TikTok. Similarly, #CAA got 25.2 million views and #noCAA got 11.9 million views. Hashtags in support of the law, such as #isupportnrc got 189,000 views and #i_support-_cab_nrc received 29,400 views.

There were dozens of similar supporting and protesting hashtags on TikTok.

TikTok, owned by China-based technology startup ByteDance, has tried hard to remain apolitical globally to avoid angering governments.

An email query sent to TikTok remained unanswered.

TikTok has about 200 million registered users in India, of which 120 million are active every month. Facebook and Twitter do not disclose user base numbers for India specifically, but statistics portal Statista puts Facebook’s active users in the country at 269 million and Twitter’s at 7.91 million, as of October.

In a bid to stay away from divisive political content, TikTok banned political advertising globally, saying they do not fit in with the experience the app aims to offer.

TikTok has stressed that it wants to be known as a place for creative expression, and one that creates a “positive, refreshing environment”.

In the last one year, TikTok has successfully diversified its content library to include educational videos on English speaking, cooking, fitness and healthcare.

Source: Economic Times