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China's TikTok users prone to support pro-Beijing narratives - study

China's TikTok users prone to support pro-Beijing narratives - study China's TikTok users prone to support pro-Beijing narratives (Getty Images)

Users of the Douyin short-video app, the Chinese version of TikTok, are more prone to adopt Chinese government narratives, Newsweek reports citing Taiwan research.

In a public opinion poll provided by Taiwan's Information Environment Research Center (IORG), 18.2 percent of the surveyed people say they are active users of the Chinese-language TikTok, using the app approximately 4.4 days a week on average. This group of respondents showed a higher likelihood - by a margin of 10 percentage points or more - to support viewpoints skeptical of the United States while aligning with China's political stances.

At the same time, IORG's survey revealed that 69.5 percent of respondents sometimes or often hear allegations that China "steals personal data" through TikTok or similar apps - a claim strongly denied by the company.

Chinese-speaking TikTok users tended to agree with perspectives suggesting that Taiwan's closer ties with the U.S. were "provoking China," potentially leading to conflict. Additionally, they supported the idea that Taiwan's economic prosperity depends on various trade agreements with Beijing.

Other studies

A study released on December 21 by the Network Contagion Research Institute and Rutgers University's Miller Center on Policing and Community Resilience suggested a "a strong possibility that TikTok systematically promotes or demotes content based on whether it is aligned with or opposed to the interests of the Chinese government."

The authors recommended further research to assess TikTok's potential influence on public narratives and urged democracies to consider countermeasures to protect "information integrity and mitigate real-world impacts."

However, in the broader survey covering adults aged 20 and above (Taiwan's legal voting age), overall favorability leaned toward the U.S., with 63.6 percent, in contrast to 16.2 percent for China.

TikTok app

Owned by ByteDance Chinese company, TikTok (Douyin in China) allows the sharing of user-submitted videos that can last from 3 seconds to 10 minutes. TikTok and Douyin have both achieved widespread global popularity. TikTok boasts over 1 billion monthly active users while Douyin has around 750 million monthly active users.

In Taiwan, as well as in the U.S. and other Western nations, TikTok has been banned on government devices due to cybersecurity concerns linked to its parent company based in Beijing.

The company is also facing allegations of secretly using ChatGPT to make its commercial artificial intelligence exclusively for China.