News & Insights

Digital Dive: TikTok CEO testifies on security

By Alyssa Carino

The Digital Dive - Digital Intelligence Newsletter.

The Big Story

TikTok Takes on Congress

TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before the House Committee for Energy and Commerce this month over concerns of the app’s potential national security threats and connections to China in addition to its potential harmful effect on children. The hearing, which lasted for more than five hours, consisted of combative back-and-forth led by US lawmakers, like Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers who opened the hearing by telling Chew: “Your platform should be banned.”

Chew argued for TikTok’s independence from China by stating how the company is headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore. Although the company is not directly located in China, there are still concerns over the Chinese government’s interference with businesses under its jurisdiction, like TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. This causes concern for security activities like the possibility of accessing US user data from the app. Despite Chew’s attempts to separate TikTok from China, US lawmakers did not seem to be receptive and continued to warn US citizens of the potential dangers. Rep. McMorris Rodgers stated “to the American people watching today, hear this: TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you, manipulate what you see and exploit for future generations.”

One of Chew’s main arguments was that the way TikTok collects data is not any different from how any other US tech giant collects user information. “We are committed to be very transparent with our users about what we collect. I don’t believe what we collect is more than most players in the industry.” In light of all the user privacy concerns, Chew and TikTok have been working with the US to ensure better data privacy by transferring all of TikTok’s US users’ data to America to be overseen by American organizations. However, lawmakers didn’t seem to buy their efforts.

Lawmakers also made it a point to highlight the concerns on TikTok’s impact on children. New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone stated: “Research has found that TikTok’s algorithms recommend videos to teens that create and exacerbate feelings of emotional distress, including videos promoting suicide, self-harm and eating disorders.” Other congressman brought up specific cases of harmful TikTok challenges that have even led to the death of children. “Your technology is literally leading to death,” stated Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida. The US calls for stricter content moderation to prevent harmful content from reaching children. TikTok has recently launched new safeguard features for younger users, like setting a 60 minute default for daily time limit for users under the age of 18.

The US Treasury Department, which is the agency that chairs the Committee on Foreign Investments in the US (CFIUS), warned in a separate statement that it “will not clear any transaction unless it determines there are no unresolved national security concerns.” The CFIUS and TikTok have been negotiating for more than two years on a deal that would address US security concerns and allow the app to continue operations in America. Chew, who has been adamant against the Chinese government’s collusion with the social platform, stated that a lot of the risks being highlighted by Congress are “hypothetical and theoretical risks.” Chew stated, “I have not seen any evidence. I am eagerly awaiting discussions where we can talk about evidence and then we can address the concerns that are being raised.”

Social Updates

Meta Continues to Build on Brand Safety Tools

Meta continues to hone in on their brand safety measures through the use of AI on both Facebook and Instagram. Recently, the company announced that it was ready to offer “brand suitability” filters, which will allow advertisers to prevent ads from appearing in placements that are deemed as risky in feeds. In partnership with the verification service, Zefr, Meta can report how the filters performed and whether they helped to keep ads away from harmful content. They have also integrated AI functionality to apply the filters that correspond to industry standards that have been set by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media.

TikTok Enters Search Ad Market

TikTok, which has been advancing in the advertising space in recent years, has recently announced their entrance into the search ad market. This now puts them directly up against the tech giants, Google, and Microsoft. Much like Google, TikTok’s search ads platform will enable brands to bid on specific keywords and phrases related to their products or services. In addition to keyword targeting, TikTok plans to also offer more robust audience targeting with the ability to target by interest, behaviors and demographics. With many Gen Z and millennial users turning to social platforms like TikTok and Instagram for search queries, this is a great opportunity for advertisers to get in front of a younger generation that has been increasingly more difficult to reach through traditional advertising channels. Furthermore, advertisers may even find more competitive pricing and better ROI with TikTok rather than the OG platforms.

Meta Rivals Twitter

Meta recently announced its exploration of a new standalone platform for sharing text updates. This new platform, which is being called “P92”, reportedly would be decentralized, meaning that users could create different servers or communities with their own rules rather than being controlled by one platform, similar to Reddit. A meta rep spoke on this saying, “we believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.” Like many other social platforms, Meta is taking advantage of the current chaos caused by Elon Musk’s reign at Twitter.

Digital Updates

Tech Leaders are Asking AI Developers to Press Pause

Leaders in the technology space, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and hundreds of others, penned an open letter requesting AI labs to “pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” The request comes as Large Language Models such as ChatGPT continue to increase in popularity among consumers, posing new threats and risks to society as these tools become more and more powerful and capable of mind-blowing feats without proper testing and regulations in place. One implication of particular interest to lawmakers is the technology’s ability to generate disinformation content at an astonishing rate and how it could potentially impact upcoming elections.

Spotify Submits to TikTok-like Features

Similar to what we have been seeing in the industry, Spotify is the next tech platform to incorporate a TikTok-like feel within their interface. Spotify’s new home feed now features small snippets of vertical videos that serve as “discovery” feeds for music, podcasts and audiobooks. This update comes as an effort to engage and reclaim users that have turned to TikTok for music discovery. Spotify CEO called this the “biggest change” to the app since the launch of mobile over a decade ago. It will be interesting to see how this is received as music lovers have already expressed concern over the platform conforming to social trends, rather than prioritizing the music. For advertisers, this will likely unlock new visual ad placements to capitalize on in addition to audio.

The Effect of AI Technology on Advertising and Marketing Jobs

ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI, is already impacting the skillset required for advertising and marketing jobs. The AI-powered chatbot has demonstrated its ability to write marketing copy, generate social media content, and even create entire websites from scratch. With ChatGPT’s potential to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, marketing and advertising professionals will need to adapt their skillset to incorporate more strategic and creative tasks, such as crafting brand stories, developing innovative campaigns, and analyzing data to drive better results. According to experts, marketing and advertising professionals who can leverage the power of AI tools like ChatGPT will have a significant advantage in the job market. As AI continues to transform the industry, it’s essential for marketers to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies to remain competitive. ChatGPT is set to revolutionize the advertising and marketing landscape, requiring professionals to embrace new skills and adapt to the changing industry landscape.

Bank Collapses Impact Digital Advertising Landscape

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank in a matter of days has sent shockwaves throughout many industries, including the digital advertising industry. SVB, historically known as one of the most startup-friendly banks, provided funding for tech-organizations in their infancy that would not traditionally be available. In the wake of its collapse, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) stepped in to take over both banks to backstop all depositors. Although the reassurance from President Biden earlier this month did ease some of the concerns, this incident is causing marketing organizations to reflect on their banking strategies. With the economy already causing shaky times for marketers, organizations will now have to ensure proper due diligence when it comes to vetting banking partners and the mechanisms that they have in place to protect assets. This also will make marketing organizations look for banks that diversify their holdings in order to give them more breathing room in times of uncertainty.

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