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TikTok, the platform for engaged youth

TikTok is the most downloaded application in the world in 2021. In Africa, it is the third application downloaded by young people aged 18 to 25. The creativity of the young African public has started to impose its codes on the platform.

TikTok continues to attract more and more young Africans. The video-sharing mobile application has become a real platform dedicated to young people. The success TikTok has enjoyed during lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has not slowed down. And the app is ranked third among the most downloaded by young people in Africa.

However, this platform, used to share memes, makeup tutorials, dances or jokes has not been so successful in Africa because of health restrictions. All in all, confinement in African countries has been much more flexible than in Europe or Asia.

An artificial intelligence researcher, Marc Faddoul, demonstrated last year that the application's algorithm was based in particular on the physical appearance of the accounts being tracked, in order to refer it to other accounts or to general news. . The suggestions would be based, in particular, on the skin color of the people that can be deduced from the videos and the profile picture.

Bypass censorship

This factor means that we systematically find ourselves following people who look like us physically. This segregation imposed by TikTok's algorithm has had an unexpected effect over time. The popularity of African dances has gradually exposed foreign accounts to follow African news!

In this case, TikTok is used in Africa to post news videos instantly. Manual moderation cannot cover hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously. Then, users automatically bypass the algorithm's censorship with tricks that have now become reflexes. Like using artificial hashtags or misleading titles.

Certainly, TikTok is used in part in the same way in Africa as elsewhere. Entertainment occupies a large portion of the platform's trends. However, the specificity of African users of TikTok, on the continent or living abroad, is activism. African youth have found on TikTok a platform for popular expression and relatively little prohibition.

It is a young and creative activism. The new anti-racist movements, for example, have found more resonance on TikTok than on other social networks. For example, the #Blacklivesmatter (BLM) movement has over 11 billion views on TikTok videos that mention this trend.

Fight racism through dance

Despite attempts by detractors of the BLM movement to infiltrate the trend, over 86% of the videos are genuine. The movement began in 2013, denouncing systematic police violence against black Americans, but it has spread around the world after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Since then, the militant movement, made up mainly of young people, has made TikTok its platform of choice to denounce police violence and anti-black racism. The recent conviction of Derek Chauvin is attributed in large part to the indignation of the tiktokers over the course of the trial.

Faced with this popularity, the social network Facebook had no choice but to stop censoring BLM posts, and replace them with a smoother, but tolerated slogan, “All lives matter”. However, the trend has not gained momentum on Facebook, or the other platforms acquired by the latter.

The activism and the Third World trend on TikTok doesn't end there. Dance challenges or vines using African or universally militant popular music, such as "Jerusalema", "This is America", "Free Nelson Mandela" or "Sympathy for the devil" have been a huge success on TikTok.

Likewise, in order to deal with Islamophobia in Europe, the diaspora has also started a lot of trends by posting videos that start with a dance or a meme and end with an anti-racist message. What the algorithm of the Chinese company ByteDance, which developed TikTok, has tried to suppress since 2019, without success.

It is a new model of activism that is gradually being created on TikTok. It is worn by a youth in search of a freedom that is lost among the restrictions of Facebook. The secret of the popularity of this new model is its disorganization, as well as its creativity which depends on the inventiveness of the user and his commitment.

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