Today it is a general political trend: after India, the United States, Indonesia and part of the Middle East, the European Parliament, Canada and Taiwan have also taken measures against TikTok, forbidding their parliamentary employees to install the app on the devices used at work.
Many governments and organizations are prohibiting the use of TikTok based upon their choice concerning worries that are tied to user privacy and the sharing of data with third parties. In this article we will explain in detail what TikTok is exactly and what its rise to fame was, we will also understand why there are many people wishing to block it and take a look how FlashStart helps network administrators to block TikTok wherever they deem it necessary.
1. TikTok: a panoramic view of the biggest growing social network of the moment
TikTok is a social platform on which you can create short videos, personalised with a high number of filters, hashtags and sounds and then publish them in just a few seconds, reaching an enormous public. In fact, according to some statistics, TikTok has now more than a billion and a half users, of which at least one billion are active users who interact at least on a monthly basis on the platform.
TikTok is considered the sixth platform in the world for its number of monthly users, after Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and WeChat. It was born in 2016 as Douyin in China and is part of the Chinese ByteDance company. The internationalised version of Douyin, that has the name TikTok, appeared on the Chinese market in September 2016 and was then launched onto the foreign market in 2017 with the iOS and Android versions.
From then on, TikTok has grown in a head spinning way, in 2020, the year of the pandemic, it was considered to be the third brand name in the world concerning speed of growth, after Zoom and Peacock. The public at which it is aimed are particularly young: 28% of its users are younger than 18, 35% are between 19 and 29, 18% between 30 and 39 and just 19% of the social network’s users are 40 or over.
Over half of the apps users, a big 63%, are part of the Generation Z, defined by some psychologists also as the iGeneration, the generation that has the closet contact between man and technology, characterised by hyper-connection. In fact, as we shall see below, it is exactly the hyper-connection that is one of the big worries tied to TikTok.
1.1 TikTok: what makes it different?
TikTok appears to be very similar to other known socials. It is also capable of sharing content, follow and be followed, used by VIP’s and stars and also has a messaging system. But what makes TikTok different from other social networks?
1.1.1 TikTok: a structure based on algorithms
The basic difference is in its structure. Just as the New York Times reports, TikTok functions much better thanks to the machine that man (or user), how shall we say, auto-generates.
When we use platforms such as Instagram or YouTube, the algorithms of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) work in order to offer us an experience that is ever more personalised, based on our past choices.
In TikTok the use of these algorithms has gone further: when opening the app we aren’t confronted by our friends feeds but instead by a page called “For You”. It is an algorithm feed that doesn’t only show users that you know or the things that, in an explicit way, you have searched for, but also infinite video proposals connected to arguments of which you have shown interest, independently of what you have searched for or watched in the past.
TikTok constantly learns from you and, right from the very first instant, begins to make you proposals regarding that which might be of interest to you, even if you are still not following anybody or haven’t even searched for anything.
1.1.2 TikTok: a different way to interact
Also, TikTok is based on a model that is different and new in the way that it interacts with the user. You can create content and show it to friends or even re-post other people’s content to your friends, just like on other platforms, but if you are not sure what to post there isn’t a problem, you are instantly inserted into a challenge group – groups in which you may not know anybody – with hashtag battles and popular song contests.
It isn’t necessary to build yourself up a public to show your content: with TikTok the public changes according to the challenges in which you are inserted, creating temporary ‘friends’ groups.
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2. Blocking TikTok
As so far mentioned, the platform has brought about many new facets to the social world and a modus operandi new and, for certain aspects, promising. At the same time many governments, agencies and organizations have censured the social network or have imposed bans on its use.
Amongst the countries that have blocked, or tried to block TikTok, there are for example India, the United States, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, and Syria. The motives that has been cited by these countries vary but include:
» Political reasons due to their relationship with China, for example in 2020 India banned TikTok and other 58 apps coming out of China asserting that they could prejudge “the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defence of India, the security of the State and public order”.
» The appropriateness of its content: this reason has been underlined by various countries and various governments citing the diffusion of pornographic content as a motive for asking censorship of the app.
» The data privacy worries: many countries have expressed doubts regarding the question of data that is being stored on Chinese servers. In 2020 TikTok announced that they had fixed many vulnerabilities in the app that had come to light, one of which for example was the control of some remote actions, allowing potential attackers to publicise videos or change states, obtaining personal details from their victims, such as their email addresses.
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3. Two more reasons to block TikTok
Apart from the reasons mentioned above, we think that there are another two reasons that could push a network administrator to want to block TikTok inside their company or organization of which they look after the network: one of the reasons is tied to psychology and the other to technical motivations.
3.1 Blocking TikTok for health reasons
Recent statistics demonstrate how TikTok today is the most engaging social and one that keeps the highest number of users stuck to their screens. On a world level, the users pass on average 90 minutes a day on the platform, translated into days signifies almost 23 days a year. This fact demonstrates a strong growth in respect to 2019 when the users remained on average a quarter of an hour each day on the app.
A growth this massive has come about because TikTok and its algorithms propose infinite never-ending content, it never stops. As stated in the past, sometimes “you don’t really understand why you are seeing what you are seeing”, you do however continue to watch. In this sense we can say that TikTok creates a type of dependency based on Artificial Intelligence mathematics.
3.2 Blocking TikTok for technical motives
There is also an important technical motive for all the network administrators and service providers: TikTok has dropped the TTL (time-to-live) of the authoritative DNS of its Servers. This results in an unjustifiable growth in the bandwidth in such that, the less the “time-to-live” of the DNS response, the more frequent is the “refresh” of its relative information.
Therefore, in consequence, there is an important increment in terms of bandwidth consumed. Usually TikTok imposes the time-to-live, or lifespan, of its CDN in just 30 seconds when in the common practice of the Internet it doesn’t fall below 300 seconds!
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4. How do you block TikTok?
Taking into consideration what has already been said it is not surprising that a variety of companies, organisations, educational institutes, and families want to block TikTok on their networks and/or on the devices that they give to their staff or users. There where the service remains available on a national level, there are other instruments that the administrators can use to obtain this result.
4.1 FlashStartt is the ideal instrument for blocking TikTok
FlashStart allows you to block TikTok in a very simple and fast way: in fact, FlashStart proposes an Internet content filter that blocks the access to sites that have harmful, dangerous or undesired content, or ones that cause distraction.
Whilst the software automatically blocks harmful content – therefore malware, trojan and worms – the network administrator can also choose to block other types of content, amongst which social networks that make up a specific category of content to be blocked with FlashStart.
4.2 FlashStart; the block that respects your wishes
You can set up the guaranteed protection of FlashStart in a way that will satisfy your every wish:
» You can choose whether to block all social networks or just some, such as TikTok
» You can decide whether to block in a permanent way or just in a specific time frame allowing it, for example, to be used in break times but blocking it during work time
» You can choose which users you want to set up in which kind of way, allowing for example the access to the platform for marketing profiles but blocking other types of users.
» You can set it up on a router level, guaranteeing the protection of all the devices connected to the network, or on a singular device level through the end-point protection.
Thanks to its structure and flexibility FlashStart is the ideal solution for all private or public entities that want to guarantee their network security and, with the very same instrument, assure the correct usage of the company resources for reducing efficiency loss.
You can activate the FlashStart® Cloud protection on any sort of Router and Firewall to secure desktop and mobile devices and IoT devices on local networks.