TikTok operator pays influencers to spread videos on Twitter

TikTok operator pays influencers to spread videos on Twitter

The Japanese operator of the popular Chinese video-sharing app TikTok said on Monday it paid social media influencers to spread certain videos on Twitter without informing viewers about the payments.

The Japan office of ByteDance Ltd. is believed to have spread TikTok videos handpicked by the company through the influencers to raise recognition levels of the app in a strategy that could be considered stealth marketing. It is believed that viewers could have mistaken those videos as ordinary posts by general social media users.

The practice, which had been in place until December, of paying influencers to upload specific videos was not intended to increase the number of the app's downloads and therefore it thought it was not obliged to clarify that the videos were intended for public relations activities.

The Japan office didn't say much about the amount and period of payments, citing contracts with social media influencers.

The measure that it took could mislead app users and other people concerned, and it will take necessary measures to prevent a similar incident happening again, the operator said in a statement.

The total downloads of the TikTok app, which allows users to upload short videos set to music, reached 3 billion by July 2021, according to U.S. research firm Sensor Tower Inc.

In August 2020, the US President Donald Trump banned major Chinese-based mobile apps, including TikTok, on national security grounds, saying the apps automatically capture large amounts of information from users.

In June 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden reversed executive orders issued by his predecessor, though he did seek an assessment of the risks associated with foreign adversary connected software applications.