♪ - TikTok is a app that's completely different than any other type of social media or entertainment platform that we've ever seen before.
The algorithms are reinforcing social disparities.
- I thought I had the freedom of speech.
- They just, like, find a way to make it so nobody sees any of your content.
This is blatant shadow-banning.
- The power of determining speech has been far too consolidated.
- TikTok rarely deletes content.
They don't have to.
They can just hide it.
- This is bigger than TikTok.
It's about who in our society gets heard.
- "TikTok Boom," now only on "Independent Lens."
[upbeat music] ♪ ♪ [spacey electronic music] ♪ ♪ - TikTok was a new app.
I knew millions of people were downloading it by the day.
And I just thought, "I want to post on a platform where younger generations are."
Once I got into junior year of high school, I was like, "Okay, I'll give TikTok a try."
I remember when I started seeing views pile up in the thousands and hundred thousands.
I didn't know I had this much power just because of me putting my voice on an app.
On TikTok, anything can happen.
♪ ♪ [poppy music playing] ♪ ♪ [light music] - ♪ Listen to me now ♪ ♪ ♪ [tense electronic music] ♪ ♪ - I guess I'm on TikTok now.
- TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times, more than any app ever.
- I think TikTok right now is probably on the cutting edge of all social media.
And it is becoming a world unto itself for a lot of people, especially young people.
♪ ♪ - TikTok is the first Chinese app to threaten the dominance of Silicon Valley.
- It's a cybersecurity story.
It's an algorithm story.
It's a bias story.
It's a geopolitical story.
- We're looking at TikTok.
We may be banning TikTok.
- It was bizarre.
Why would suddenly this kind of, like, fun little kids' app become wrapped up in this huge geopolitical storm between the U.S. and China that was only getting hotter?
- ♪ Renegade, renegade, renegade, renegade ♪ [loud explosion] [car door closing] - Fix your mirrors.
Put it in drive.
- Put it in drive?
[spacey electronic music] - So my family's from Afghanistan.
They were just very grateful, because they could finally come here.
They were just amazed by the privileges that were being brought to them.
- So you didn't--you didn't use your signal there.
- I did.
Oh, I thought I did.
My parents, their dreams of America were flourishing before 9/11.
And then once those planes hit the towers, their dreams were shattered too, because it was as if they were responsible for that.
Growing up as an Afghan-American, it was really rough.
♪ ♪ My school isn't diverse at all.
I don't feel like I'm one of them.
I don't think my classmates even think that I'm one of them.
♪ ♪ I got called a terrorist.
I got called bin Laden.
I've been called a part of the Taliban since I'm Afghan.
♪ ♪ And I always felt like an outsider.
♪ ♪ My mom made these two.
I wore this dress on my TikTok.
I have gone viral a few times.
It was my first time posting on TikTok.
It was, like, 40,000 views I've gotten on it.
And it was just me dancing with my Afghan clothes on.
The response was, like, amazing, because through TikTok, I found so many other Afghans and so many other Afghan-Americans.
I never knew how big the Afghan-American community was till I joined TikTok, and I see more people accepting me for who I am.
[electronic beeping] I started realizing TikTok had power.
♪ ♪ Even if it was for comedy or makeup, whatever I was posting, people wanted to watch it.
And I was like, "Okay.
So anything's possible on this app."
♪ ♪ Anyone can basically go viral on this app.
♪ ♪ [dramatic music] ♪ ♪ - ♪ Wipe, wipe ♪ ♪ Wipe it down wipe, wipe ♪ - [beatboxing] DJ Spencer in the mix.
[beatboxing] My friend Scott comes up to me, and he goes, "Hey, man.
I want to show you something you've never heard before."
[beatboxing] And I was like, "What did you just do right now?
Like, is this a trick?
Is this a game?
Like..." And he's like, "No, no, no, dude.
"It's called beatboxing.
You just make music with your mouth."
And I'm like, "You were doing that with your face?"
[beatboxing] I was 15.
I was a sophomore in high school.
And I remember that moment just being magic to me.
[laughs] Like, it was love at first sound.
[beatboxing] Hey, this is Spencer Polanco, and this is what I do.
And I decided that night I was gonna be a beatboxer.
But you can also imagine me busting out of my room just, you know, wild Spencer full of excitement in my eyes.
"Dad, Mom, I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I want to be a beatboxer."
And then they looked at me like I was crazy.
[beatboxing] - Spencer beatbox.
- I grew up in New York City.
My father is from Ecuador.
And he came here and found my mom.
My mom was first-generation Chinese family.
My father, he wanted me to be a tennis player.
And my mom wanted me to be a doctor.
And then when I expressed something they didn't understand, which was beatboxing, they were accepting but confused and then unaccepting and even more confused.
I mean, I was a struggling artist.
I was a typical artist that was performing in the streets of New York City.
I was in the subways busking.
Some days you make 20 bucks working all day.
[beatboxing] When I started TikTok, I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, "If this isn't gonna happen right now, it's not gonna happen."
Okay, this is the first viral video.
[imitates beverage glugging] Ahh.
[beatboxing] Look at my hair.
I didn't even, like, fix my hair for this video.
And that was a six-second video.
I woke up the next day and it had, like, 3 million views.
And I was just genuinely confused.
I was like, "Oh, my God, they like me."
I looked at it, and I'm like, "There's something here."
So I decided to post more.
And I decided to do every single idea I possibly could.
[beatboxing] ♪ ♪ Pshh!
[wrapper rips] [cookie crunches Late 2019 was my first brand deal, and it was for Nike.
When I first told my parents that I was doing something for Nike, they were like, "What?
[coughing] The fact that anyone wants to use beatboxing for anything is the coolest thing on Earth to me.
Now there's so many independent artists, especially coming from TikTok, that have just, like, cult following that have people that believe in them being outside of the industry.
[beatboxing] - ♪ Savage love ♪ - I'm a beatboxer, and I'm hanging out at Jason Derulo's house.
Like, how did this happen?
Like, this is dope.
- ♪ But I still want that, your savage love ♪ - It wasn't until I was on TV when I presented at the Billboard Music Awards, that's when my parents, they were like, "All right, Spencer's on TV now.
I don't know what to do with this information."
[beatboxing] ♪ ♪ [ticking noise] - The creator economy is the fastest-growing type of small business with more than 50 million people around the world who consider themselves to be content creators.
- TikTok is absolutely massive.
Last year they reported they had over 2 billion users.
TikTok is an app that's completely different than any other type of social media or entertainment platform that we've ever seen before.
TikTok was the first platform to really popularize high-quality vertical video content, which just makes it so easy to consume.
The For You page is completely individually tailored to you based on the data that they gather about you.
What TikTok does so well is discovery.
It allows you to drill down on the whole internet and find these really specific groups of people that resonate with you.
It's just any kind of niche subculture or community, you can find creators that are in that niche.
People just get discovered much faster.
They blow up much faster.
And it's just everything goes ten times more viral than it would on any other social app.
It's remaking the food landscape, the fashion landscape.
People are learning on TikTok.
TikTok defines top 40.
If you go to the trending list on Spotify of the most viral hits, it's all TikTok songs.
We saw Fleetwood Mac "Dreams," you know, resurge because of a viral video.
- ♪ It's only right that you should play the way ♪ - It's hard to find an industry that TikTok hasn't infiltrated or disrupted.
[upbeat music] All the biggest brands, they want to do TikTok campaigns because it has the hype right now.
TikTok just really resonated with this Gen Z audience, which is where the most valuable users are.
You have brands poised to spend over $15 billion in the next year on influencer marketing alone.
- Eyeballs bring money, and brands chase the eyeballs, chase the young users.
- The whole media ecosystem has migrated towards this personality-driven form of entertainment.
So often people think, "Oh, online content creators, right, that's some teenager that's dancing."
Online influence is influence.
And if you can make an impact online, you have the ability to reshape the world.
♪ ♪ The elephant in the room, of course, is the fact that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company.
And it's the first time we've seen a huge Chinese consumer tech company come in and dominate the American market.
[ticking noise] [tense music] - So there was this guy from China named Zhang Yiming.
He worked for a number of startups before starting up his own company, a company called ByteDance.
The thing that struck me the most about TikTok was just how calculated their founders were from the very beginning about their goal, which was to become this kind of global force and really, like, penetrate the, you know, the zeitgeist of the U.S. ♪ ♪ - It's a story that's gonna sound very similar to many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
So Zhang Yiming came from a middle-class family.
And he basically just had this dream that he was going to make something important of himself.
♪ ♪ So when the iPhone came out in the late 2000s, he was just really blown away by the fact that you could have a full computing device small enough to fit in your pocket.
And he was just convinced mobile internet was going to be the next once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he had read about in the history books.
And he was determined to take advantage of this big wave.
♪ ♪ - They started in an apartment, which was very common in Chinese sort of internet entrepreneurship lore.
- About 2015 or so, ByteDance was doing experiments with video.
And Zhang Yiming had this sort of strange idea about recommendation engines, which serves you content that it thinks you'll be interested in.
[applause] - So ByteDance launched Douyin.
♪ ♪ Within six months after launch it hit this inflection point.
Somehow it just became viral.
♪ ♪ [upbeat music] ♪ ♪ - Yo, what's wrong, man?
Dude, it is so hot.
Dude, why don't you just go get some Ben & Jerry's ice cream?
People pay me to put their product in my videos.
These are from this week.
They're so many.
I get, like, clothes from, like, all different major brands.
Look at that.
- After the success of Douyin in China, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly, a lip sync app already popular with kids and young teens in the U.S., and merged them, rebranding the app as TikTok.
- One thing Zhang Yiming did was to create two different products.
Douyin was for the Chinese market, and it was a Chinese app.
And TikTok was for the global market.
And what that meant was that he could keep the Chinese app walled off in China with Chinese rules and then keep TikTok for the rest of the globe.
TikTok was all of a sudden this huge success from day one.
- TikTok has done what no other Chinese-made app has done before.
It's cracked the international market and become a global sensation.
- TikTok is now available in 154 countries and 75 languages rivaling Silicon Valley's biggest apps.
- TikTok and its owner, ByteDance, were the first Chinese social media company to really provide a wake-up call to Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others that it's not just about Silicon Valley bringing technology to the world but really that China is a real force to be reckoned with.
[spacey electronic music] - People spend more time on TikTok per day than Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube.
Facebook is absolutely desperate right now to regain any semblance of relevance, which they've lost quite a while ago.
- In many areas, we're behind our competitors.
The fastest-growing app is TikTok.
♪ ♪ - There was sort of this perception that there was too much of a cultural difference between China and the rest of the world and that Chinese companies didn't know how to build globally successful social media.
I think TikTok's completely blown that out of the water.
♪ ♪ The world we all grew up in was one where America dominated culturally, where it dominated technologically.
And the world that we will end up retiring in will probably be one where China dominates in most of those areas.
Power is shifting to China rapidly.
And ByteDance and the story of TikTok is part of that.
[birds chirping, horns honking] [door squeaks open] - Hi.
How are you?
- So what are we gonna do?
- I want to play with adding just, like, more dimension to my hair.
It's, like, a little-- it's falling a little flat.
- I think that it's scary to be the first generation to have our entire lives documented.
Every action, you know, every haircut, every look change is on people's radars.
You know, I work a job where so much of it is, like, looking-- being looked at or... - Yeah.
- Looking at myself, honestly.
- What do you do?
- Some influencer and content creation work.
So I went viral for the first time when I was 16 years old for a confrontation with my senator.
- Republican Senator Jeff Flake held a town hall in Mesa, Arizona, last night and got an earful from 16-year-old activist Deja Foxx.
Take a look.
- So I'm a young woman, and you're a middle-aged man.
I'm a person of color.
- And you're white.
I come from a background of poverty, and I didn't always have parents to guide me through life.
You come from privilege, so...
I woke up the next morning, and 18 million people had seen that video.
And I had a request in my email to go live on CNN.
I can't sit idly by while women like me are countlessly and constantly being ignored on Capitol Hill.
Overnight, I could be visible to people that I will never know.
The internet connected me to the entire world.
[light electronic music] ♪ ♪ On any platform where you can get extreme reach, you open yourself up to benefits, right?
Larger followings, more views, more attention.
But you also open yourself up to more hate, to people who are going to tear you down, tear you apart, pick at you.
I live in a pretty constant state of anxiety.
I don't know what it's like to live in a world where I'm not being perceived always, and it's this tug-of-war between that's kind of what I want, and it's kind of the thing I fear the most.
I think there is a really interesting line between what it means to be empowered by your sexuality versus being exploited by it online.
♪ ♪ You can be a bad bitch in a bikini and a boss bitch in a blazer.
[ticking noise] The posts where I'm showing more skin do better.
But I also question why that is.
If we think that these platforms really are just showing us the most popular content without really interrogating why we're seeing what we're seeing, that's dangerous.
And it's not transparent to us, though we're the ones driving all of the activity on the platform.
There's so much mystery to the algorithm.
"The algorithm," like, what does that even mean?
- So when I call your name, I shall place the sorting hat on your head.
And you will be sorted into your houses.
- I've referred to TikTok as a sorting hat in reference to the sorting hat from "Harry Potter."
When the kids show up at Hogwarts, there's this magical sorting hat that sorts them into one of the four schools.
TikTok's recommendation algorithm serves as that type of sorting hat.
It sorts its users into different audiences.
Then it sorts videos into different clusters that appeal to different audiences.
TikTok was very different in that even if you didn't follow anybody, you would over time, just by using the app, get a very personalized entertainment experience for yourself.
- Is anyone else, like, a little weirded out about how specific TikTok's algorithm gets for the For You page?
- The For You page on TikTok is the default that the app opens into.
On the one hand, it has a bunch of attributes about the video.
It has the song in it.
It has a dog.
On the other, it has a bunch of attributes about you.
You're this age.
You live here.
Those are contextual clues to feed their algorithm to determine what your tastes are.
- My TikTok algorithm is just like, "You have ADHD.
You have BPD.
- When you're looking at each video on the For You page, TikTok, the app, is looking at how you react to that video.
And the algorithm starts to become smarter just off of these long sessions where you're addictively scrolling through videos... ♪ ♪ and then adjusts what videos it shows you in the future.
And over time it builds almost a fingerprint of your tastes.
- I'm talking, like, I was just thinking about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
And then out of nowhere, someone is making a peanut butter and jelly on my For You page.
But lately, I kid you not, it hasn't been things that I'll Google or I talk about.
It's been thoughts.
- Are any other girls, like, kind of aggravated that it took more than 20 years to figure out we were bisexual, but it took my TikTok algorithm, like, 37 seconds?
- TikTok is just the latest manifestation of the power that comes from connecting billions of people in the world with really powerful machine-learning recommendation algorithms.
[birds chirping] - After joining TikTok, I decided, like, maybe I want to make more political savvy videos.
And I got more views on that.
Hi, if you actually think all lives matter, I want you to speak up about the kids in the cages at the border.
I want you to speak up about the kids dying in the Middle East.
I want you to speak up about the child trafficking.
I first heard about the Uighurs through social media since I do follow Muslim pages and try to keep up with my community.
- Across the northwestern province of Xinjiang, an estimated one million Chinese Muslims have vanished into a vast network of detention centers that targets Uighur Muslims.
- I saw someone post a picture of these Uighur prisoners.
And when I did more research, I found out that this genocide is happening in front of us, and no one is speaking about it.
- ♪ Right here in these streets ♪ - ♪ Okay, okay, okay ♪ ♪ What the [bleep]?
♪ It says, "News outlets "when innocent Muslims "are getting murdered every day in the Middle East and in China."
♪ ♪ The next day after I posted that video, I looked at my feed, and I saw where the post used to be.
It was no longer the image of my face on there.
It was just a black little box.
When I clicked on it, it just would say, "Video unavailable."
I found out how TikTok's basically using our data, using our information, and using it for their own benefit.
TikTok is a Beijing-owned app.
It has censored videos that are against the CCP.
I don't know about you guys, but I want to know what TikTok's doing with our information.
[ticking noise] [spacey music] - AI is hungry for data.
So the more data you have the more accurate the AI becomes.
So in the age of AI, data is the new oil, and China is the new Saudi Arabia.
♪ ♪ - Your data is an asset to a lot of companies.
Google and Amazon and Facebook, they're so big, and they have so much money, because they have all of your data.
♪ ♪ And there's a whole secondary market for data called data brokers.
And they're gathering all of this data, and they're selling it to each other.
And it's really no different than the stock market.
If a company can start gathering that data, thousands of points of data a day, from the time someone's 5 until the time they're 18, those companies, when they sell that data, they have a profile that knows a child way better than a parent would.
And that is extremely valuable to advertisers.
♪ ♪ If social media is determining and tracking you in different ways and telling you what your dreams are going to be based on the ads you're getting, that impacts the kid's brain, and it impacts their goals.
♪ ♪ There's a lot of harms happening with these companies that are based in Northern California.
What's different about TikTok is, where is this data going?
♪ ♪ - TikTok is reportedly under federal investigation, the U.S. government reportedly launching a national security review of the company's data collection and censorship practices amid concerns that users' personal data could be accessible to foreign governments.
♪ ♪ - There's very little transparency.
Just because a tech company says something-- and I'm not just talking about TikTok-- we don't have to take the tech company at its word.
♪ ♪ I think Facebook is somewhat scared of the quick rise of TikTok, because all of that data that Facebook was getting is now going to TikTok.
♪ ♪ [ticking noise] - China is one of the few markets where Facebook is unavailable right now because of government censors.
- Well, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears to be trying bit by bit to re-enter the world's largest internet population, China.
- Facebook was probably the most aggressive social media company to try to get into China, because social media in China had been blocked for a number of years.
♪ ♪ Mark Zuckerberg was trying to find a way that they could exist somehow in China.
And so he learned Mandarin.
He went to a number of conferences where he could put himself in front of Xi Jinping and speak to Xi Jinping directly.
And he really was aggressive in saying, you know, "This is a huge market.
"How can we be this global connector for the world and not have China be part of it?"
But it became clear to him in the last few years that it's not going to work, and so he completely changed.
He completely had a 180, and he went on the offensive.
- A decade ago almost all of the major internet platforms were American.
Today six of the top ten are Chinese.
- He realized that if I can't win over the Chinese market, then I'm gonna make it harder for them to win over my market in the U.S. - Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly called TikTok a threat to democracy.
What the Facebook CEO failed to mention is that he tried to purchase TikTok's predecessor, Musical.ly.
- Zuckerberg's clearly very concerned about TikTok, because it's the most genuine new competition he's received for a long time.
- TikTok has captured the attention of the world's most lucrative market, young people, and with it the power to reshape the future.
[ticking noise] [phone beeping] - [beatboxing] ♪ ♪ - That was good.
- I liked that one.
Content's easy with you, Merrick.
- My name is Merrick Hanna.
I am 16 years old.
♪ ♪ When people think of influencers, I think they think it's very leisurely.
Open... - [beatboxing] - [laughs] It's fast.
- Is that how it goes?
- Yeah, it's that fast.
- Why is it so fast?
- 'Cause it loops.
- Yeah, so it seems like it's longer when you watch it.
- I don't think it needs to be quite as fast as you're suggesting.
Try and make it longer.
You're rushing so much.
To manage Merrick's career at this point is definitely a full-time job on top of my full-time job, reading all the emails for him, reading the contracts, reading the offers, replying, the back and forth.
- My dad helps a lot with finding ideas, because that is a big part of it.
He'll find a trend that he thinks I can do.
He'll show it to me, and I'll be like, "All right, I know what to do."
Hit, hit, hit, hit, then I'll push back.
Even though it may not seem like it, he does a lot of the work.
- I don't sleep quite as much as I used to.
- [beatboxing] - Now.
It's like a gold rush.
Brands wisely are now seeing that you can pinpoint an audience better probably through social media, and TikTok especially, than a lot of traditional means of advertising.
And then there's a lot of people who are trying to take advantage of the gold rush who just shouldn't be, who are incompetent.
But a lot of the influencers are young and inexperienced and don't know better.
- I think that having a parent filter social media messages is critical parent involvement if you want to keep an eye on your child.
- It's very, very, very important.
- Very, very.
- ♪ Inferno ♪ ♪ Baby, I'm the reason why ♪ - A third of TikTok's U.S. users may be 14 or under, raising safety questions.
- An extremely popular video app--it was called Musical.ly; it's now called TikTok-- has agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines for illegally collecting personal information from children.
[tense music] ♪ ♪ - Hey, Kari.
These companies are preying on children.
TikTok is amassing a profile on them so that they can be targeted by advertisers.
They can push ideas to that child, and that is dangerous.
♪ ♪ One of the unique features of TikTok is that a child could post a video dancing and having fun, and there's a feature on it called Duets, where you have children posting their own videos and then you just have these older men staring at them, - ♪ Good morning, beautiful ♪ ♪ How was your night?
♪ - Where these older men doing--you know, just being part of I want to be in a duet with you.
We had one where the girl went to kiss her camera, and at the same time, one of these older men kisses his camera.
So it looks like you're having an older man making out with a young girl.
These people are seeing your children, and they could contact them through the TikTok app.
There were child predators before social media, but they didn't have direct access to your child's inbox.
- ♪ Walk up in dat bitch too clean I'm froze ♪ ♪ They don't fight you where I'm from ♪ ♪ Like the beat I keep a drum ♪ ♪ You ain't got dough, lil' boy, you a bum ♪ - I'm involved in working on litigation against TikTok.
And my son is up in his bedroom, you know, doing livestreams of TikTok, it turned out.
And so, like, the work I do, is that ever in the back of your mind like, "So I'm using all these apps, and my dad has these lawsuits "against these companies for data and protecting people"?
Like, do you think about that?
I just think about it, 'cause you come home and tell me about all that stuff.
And then I'm, like, technology is, like, to someone my age, is, like, so essential to everything I do that it's, like, I kind of have to live with the fact that there's gonna be people that are profiting off my data, and I have no real recourse for that.
What's more concerning is, like, the accuracy of the algorithm.
Like, I could be talking about a movie.
And then later that day, that movie, like, shows up on my feed.
- Like, you're just talking randomly to somebody about a movie?
- That happens, like, way more often than I'm comfortable with.
- And that doesn't freak you out?
- Oh, it does to some degree, but, like, I guess I'm used to it at this point.
Like, it happens so much.
♪ ♪ - I am on the front lines of fighting privacy battles for children.
And my kids know that's what I do, but they're on the app, so it's a fight you fight, but it's a difficult fight to win with your kids.
You can only do so much, and these companies know that.
If there's no regulation of it, you as a parent, you don't have any control over what's being pushed to these kids.
♪ ♪ - Gen Z is a unique generation.
To be a digital native is to be someone who doesn't know a world without the internet.
Teenagers are in a really sensitive point in their development both in terms of how their brains are rewiring and in terms of how they're making sense of themselves and their place in the world.
What ends up happening is that the algorithms themselves end up shaping the development of teenagers on these apps in ways that we don't understand at all.
♪ ♪ With any recommendation algorithm, you run the risk of individuals who look similar to each other in terms of their activity getting pushed closer and closer and closer together in terms of the content that they're being recommended, whatever information is gonna confirm your pre-existing beliefs.
♪ ♪ By not allowing people from diverse perspectives to come into contact with each other, it lessens their ability for empathy.
The algorithms are reinforcing social disparities.
♪ ♪ It's not just TikTok.
It is the technology that TikTok relies on.
But recommendation algorithms have infiltrated all aspects of our society.
♪ ♪ Humans are relying on recommendation systems to tell them what decisions to make.
And they are determining our futures moment by moment in ways that we have very little control.
If we fail to regulate social media and the impact that it's having on this generation, we're gonna see a lot of marginalized teenagers experiencing harms that none of us had to experience and that none of us are prepared to help them navigate.
♪ ♪ - I've been in the spotlight since I was 16.
And it is exhausting.
There's definitely this tension always between produce, produce, produce, stay relevant and produce things that you're going to be proud of in ten years.
And they don't always go together.
And I think it leaves me to question, you know, "Am I doing the right thing?
Did I make the right choices?"
♪ ♪ I was raised by a single mom.
And I grew up in a household that like many couldn't afford the basics.
Probably the hardest time was when my mom started to decline into substance abuse.
When I was 15, I walked out of my mom's house, because I couldn't get what I needed there.
And so for me, that looked like living at a friend's house until I graduated and moved to college.
Sometimes I'll just scroll through social media, because it feels like the only thing I can do, but it doesn't give me energy.
It takes energy from me.
And then I end up just completely coming down my-- my ladder to the bottom rung of stagnation.
I was seeing a therapist at Columbia for the first time ever.
And I, like, went into her office, and I was shaking and crying, and she couldn't understand.
And she was telling me, you know, "Why don't you just delete your social media?"
And I was like, "What you don't understand "is that I can't delete these accounts, because they are what keeps me financially stable."
I pay all of my own bills.
And in addition to that, I pay my mom's bills.
And monetizing on social media has given me the opportunity to do that.
When I'm being abused or harassed online, it's almost impossible for me to step away.
And it's kind of like an abusive relationship in that regard.
I have to open myself up to this hate, because this is what creates financial stability for me.
♪ ♪ [ticking noise] - What starts out as just a place to be creative and express yourself becomes this rat race for attention and this need to constantly chase like counts, follower counts, and view counts, a need to constantly perform in a way that can really break people down.
Social media influencer was the fourth-highest aspiration among elementary school students.
On the outside, the life of influencers looks really fun and glamorous.
On the inside, a lot of those influencers, in addition to getting some external validation, they're getting a lot of harassment and hate.
They have to perform happiness all of the time.
Many of them are struggling with depression, anxiety, burnout.
And that is having very real-world consequences.
So that algorithm that's always trying to figure out what the hottest trends are, it's constantly lifting something up to the stratosphere and then taking it back down again.
To me this is bigger than TikTok.
It's about who in our society gets heard and what you have to do in our society to get heard.
[light music] ♪ ♪ - After my first video about the Uighurs was taken down, I knew I had to disguise my video.
So I grabbed my pink eyelash curler, and I start curling my lashes.
This is the one that started it all.
I'm gonna teach you guys how to get long lashes.
So the first thing you need to do is grab your lash curler, curl your lashes, obviously.
Then you're gonna put them down and use your phone that you're using right now to search up what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there, separating their families from each other, kidnapping them, murdering them, raping them, forcing them to...
I spoke about all of that in just, like, 40 seconds, and then I continued on to the eyelash tutorial.
This is another Holocaust, yet no one is talking about it.
Please be aware.
Please spread awareness.
So you can grab your lash curler again.
It reached millions, and people were-- people were shocked in the comments.
- You popped up on my For You page, and I was like, "Oh, my God, that's Feroza."
I was like, "I sent this to her."
And I was like, "Why are you on my For You page?
And why do you have, like, so many likes?"
It was, like, crazy.
- I had to tell my mom right after that.
I was like, "Ugh, people are sending it now.
I should tell my mom I have TikTok."
- My mom--like, we were watching the news and she was like, "Is that Feroza?"
- I was like, "Oh, gosh.
Yes, it's my friend."
- A 42nd video going viral in just one day.
That's, like, the power that TikTok holds.
So I decided to post two more videos the following two days to just post more information on how to help.
You wanted a second part to the video on how to get longer lashes, so here it is.
And by the way, I say that so TikTok doesn't take down my videos.
I don't think TikTok noticed what I posted at first.
And then the following day-- it was, like, a Monday-- I wake up at 5:00 a.m. for school, and I go on TikTok to see how many views the next two videos got.
And I see that I can't even go on TikTok.
My account's suspended.
♪ ♪ "Your account is temporarily suspended, because it goes against Community Guidelines."
Nothing from my post violates community guidelines.
I show nothing of hate speech.
I show no profanity.
Everything I spoke about was factual evidence.
My first thought after seeing this black screen on my phone was, "I'm not letting them silence me."
I quickly made a Twitter account.
I quickly posted on Instagram that, "Hey, I was silenced for speaking up.
And I'm not gonna let them get away with that."
And I asked people to continue sharing the video.
I'm so grateful that people heard me saying that my voice was taken away.
- 17-year-old Feroza Aziz.
- [speaking in native language] - Joining us now is Feroza Aziz.
- In less than a few days, I was on Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN.
- More than 1.5 million people have watched it just on TikTok.
What kind of responses have you had just from regular people?
- Half of them is positive.
And the other half is, "Wow, I did not know this is happening.
Why am I hearing this on TikTok and why not on the news?"
I did feel a little bit upset, though, because I felt as if more attention was brought to me being silenced than to what I was actually speaking about.
I remember seeing headlines saying, "Oh, Beijing-owned app takes on video" and not, "Oh, like, there's a Uighur genocide happening."
♪ ♪ I felt very overwhelmed with the news coverage.
One of my idols--I have, like, her picture on my wall-- AOC, retweeted an article of me.
I didn't expect politicians from China to even comment on it.
- China's foreign ministry said it had no specifics of this case.
- [speaking Chinese] - You're saying the content is still on the TikTok account?
I'm not aware of the situation.
How could I know what's happening on the account of one individual?
- I thought I had the freedom of speech, but I guess under TikTok that it's not possible for me to have that right.
♪ ♪ [ticking noise] - Content moderation is a process of determining what's appropriate and what's not appropriate online.
One of the natural tensions becomes if you have a company, but it's all throughout the globe, do you adjust to the cultural norms of another country?
I mean, a lot of people when they're on Facebook or TikTok or Instagram, they talk about it by using concepts, like freedom of speech, because all throughout society, specifically American society, we have debated what's appropriate, how you balance individual autonomy and expression with the societal impact.
That used to reside in governmental bodies.
♪ ♪ With social media, the power of determining speech has been far too consolidated.
Major tech companies, if they have the power of deciding what's okay and what's not okay with what I say, if they have the power to de-platform, that puts a tremendous level of power in an unelected official.
♪ ♪ - You know, I might go livestream on Douyin a little bit.
That's what's hard on Douyin, but there's one problem, 'cause all the restrictions of my tattoos.
They might shut me down.
Here we go.
Also, the piercing?
Hey, you see this?
Because I have tattoos, I can't go livestream.
That's really messed up, you know?
Yeah, on Douyin, you have to watch everything that you say.
Just one word, one frame can set your whole video off.
♪ ♪ - For the first time in history, a person can write something or say something and have it reach a large segment of the world.
So this brings up the topic of censorship, which is really tricky.
The West, of course, is a society built on free speech.
But now in the West, we're grappling with our own form of debate around censorship.
Different government officials, even the public are starting to feel great anger about the types of misinformation that's spread on social networks, like Facebook, like Twitter.
And so now, you're starting to see, even in the U.S., increasing rhetoric around passing laws to curb their power.
China, with a great firewall and with government moderation has taken a very active hand in controlling what topics are discussed, what ideas are acceptable to discuss on the internet.
We've never had to grapple with questions around censorship in an era where so many people have a global megaphone now in their hands.
♪ ♪ - It was back in late December when Dr. Li Wenliang first warned friends on WeChat about a SARS-like disease going around.
Li sent a group message saying that a test result from a patient quarantined at the hospital where he worked showed a patient had a coronavirus.
But hours after hitting Send, Wuhan City health officials tracked Li down questioning where he got the information.
♪ ♪ - Dr. Li sounded the alarm early in the COVID-19 outbreak.
He soon faced government intimidation and then contracted the virus.
When he passed away, I was among many Chinese netizens who expressed grief and outrage at the events on Weibo only to have my account deleted.
I felt guilt more than anger.
At the time, I was a tech worker at ByteDance, where I helped develop tools and platforms for content moderation.
In other words, I had helped build the system that censored accounts like mine.
The technologies we created supported the entire company's content moderation, including Douyin at home and its international equivalent, TikTok.
There was a long, constantly updated list of sensitive words, dates, and names.
If a user mentioned a sensitive term, they would shut down the ongoing livestreaming session and even suspend or delete the account.
Many of my colleagues felt uneasy about what we were doing.
But we all felt that there was nothing we can do.
Dr. Li warned his colleagues and friends about an unknown virus.
He was punished for that.
Just imagine, had any social media platform been able to reject the government's censorship directives, perhaps millions of lives would have been saved today.
- I mean, the thing about TikTok is, it says its Chinese owners are just that, owners.
They don't control it.
In fact, TikTok takes a much, much stronger attitude against the sort of content that, well, that the Chinese government wouldn't like to see on a social media app.
There's no orders coming down from on high.
There's just the understanding that you will do what Beijing wants, and you'll try and guess what they want and do it without being asked.
♪ ♪ - In 2019 we had someone contact us claiming to have internal information and access to internal TikTok moderation guidelines.
♪ ♪ And I don't think we realized at the time how big the story would get.
[phone buzzing] What we saw was that TikTok was very explicit about what it wanted to have on the platform and what it didn't want to show on the platform.
TikTok rarely deletes content.
They don't have to.
They can just hide it.
♪ ♪ The guidelines were explicitly instructing moderators to deal with people who are LGBTQ or had disabilities or for whatever reason TikTok felt were vulnerable to bullying by hiding their content.
So it was in Mandarin and underneath a fairly awkward English translation.
So it says, "Subjects who is susceptible to bullying or harassment "based on their physical or mental condition.
"Example: facial disfigurement, autism, "Down Syndrome, "disabled people or people with some facial problems," et cetera.
"Content of subjects likely to incite cyberbullying will be allowed but marked with risk tag 4."
♪ ♪ Basically, like, different levels of what we call algorithmic punishment or algorithmic visibility.
So they were put in a category called Risk 4, which means that as soon as their videos would reach a certain threshold of views, they would automatically also be taken from the For You feed.
♪ ♪ Later on, other leaks surfaced.
- I actually have the Ugly Content Policy right in front of me.
It's so crazy to read this, like, "Abnormal body shape, chubby, ugly facial looks, "not limited to disformatted face, fangs, lack of front teeth, senior people with too many wrinkles."
And it just goes on and on, right?
- In a statement, TikTok said, "Earlier, we took a blunt approach "to minimizing conflict on the platform.
"Today we use local content moderation policies.
"We want TikTok to be a space where everyone can safely and freely express themselves."
- It's just a lot of the move-fast-and-break-things attitude that we've seen from other Silicon Valley companies.
♪ ♪ It's not like only TikTok was doing these things.
Obviously, the representation that we see in media is not an accurate picture of society.
But I think there is a difference that, you know, no TV station nor does Hollywood pretend to be open access to everybody, whereas this is a promise that social media platforms make.
♪ ♪ - TikTok faces government investigation in over seven countries, all citing concerns over national security and content moderation.
[ticking noise] - Am I the only one that has noticed that Black creators get least favored by the algorithm?
How is it that my followers are not seeing my video?
What's up with the algorithm?
- I've had some of my TikTok videos get zero views.
And I've been shadow-banned.
- Shadow-banning on TikTok is just when there's something in the algorithm that just kind of shuts you out completely.
They just, like, find a way to make it so nobody sees any of your content.
♪ ♪ I am an apprenticing ocularist, an artist who works in the medical field making prosthetic eyes.
TikTok's algorithm is very good.
You know, you can create an account, and within a couple of hours or a couple of days, that algorithm knows who you are, you know?
So for that same algorithm to kind of just rip the rug out from thousands of Black creators, it kind of pulls you back for a second.
We know the history that this nation has with Black people.
We know the savagery that they had to endure because of colonizers and the savagery that they still have to endure.
I got on, and I had made a video talking about how my For You page was only white creators.
And by that point, I would say I had 150,000 to 200,000 followers.
And so I had a video sitting that I published for three hours, and it said zero views.
That was the first time where I was like, "This is blatant shadow-banning.
"Nobody's seeing this, 'cause they're ensuring that nobody can."
- Tech troubles.
TikTok says a technical glitch is making it appear as if posts with the #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd receive no views.
The video platform says it's dealing with a display issue adding that videos featuring those tags have amassed more than 2 billion views.
- Normally when you go to use a tag on TikTok, it'll tell you how many views have been on that tag.
And you would go to write Black Lives Matter, and it would say zero.
Or, you know, BLM, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, anything, it would tell you zero.
- TikTok said in a statement which reads in part, "First, to our Black community, we want you to know that..." - "Last week, a technical glitch "made it temporarily appear "as if posts uploaded using #BlackLivesMatter "and #GeorgeFloyd would receive zero views.
"We understand that many assume this bug "to be an intentional act to suppress experiences "and invalidate the emotions felt by the Black community.
"And we know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust."
Kind of, like, the normal checkpoints that people go through.
We're trying to do better."
I would love to believe that it was a technical glitch, 'cause you're like, "That's absolutely possible, 100%."
But it's so oddly specific that I can't attribute that to just being a glitch.
- TikTok has said that their content moderation has changed.
Some of what you see on there backs that up in the sense that you see a lot of activism there.
You saw Black Lives Matter content eventually be up on there.
But it's constantly changing.
It's a constant black box.
We have no idea what's going into any of these algorithms.
And there's zero transparency.
[birds chirping] - ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of TikTok, apologized for the suspension blaming a human moderation error.
And TikTok says it doesn't apply Chinese moderation principles to its product outside of Mainland China.
- After a few days, TikTok gave my account back.
People don't seem to understand what it feels like to have someone try to take away your voice, and then they give it back to you.
It's my voice.
And them deciding to give me back my account after taking it away, it was as if they could control what I could say and what I could do.
And it's just disgusting to see an app do that.
Till this day, my classmates will post on my social media accounts leaving hate comments.
I can delete the comment, but I'm gonna go to class the next day, and I'm gonna sit next to the person who hates my guts for just speaking on issues that I believe needs to be spoken about.
When you're so invested on apps like TikTok, when something bad happens on social media, your life is torn apart.
♪ ♪ [ticking noise] - Storytime.
We all worked on the Kamala Harris campaign in the presidential primary.
- And this is your sign to get a tattoo with your work besties.
- For the people.
- I was 19 years old when I started on the Kamala Harris campaign.
I withdrew my sophomore year at Columbia.
And it was a huge move.
I think that our perspective as young people is what led us to think TikTok is important.
There's a lot of young people there.
- We were the first campaign that was putting content on TikTok directly.
- I feel like we have to take a moment for this.
- Oh, thank you.
- Oh, yes.
- All of Yessica's iconic shots.
- So good.
- I mean, you pioneered vertical video.
- And it was interesting to see the progression.
Like, when different candidates started to have, like, their official TikToks and, like, what kind of content did they make on TikTok?
I think we felt like we were kind of starting to hit our stride with TikTok.
- And then we, like, had to stop.
- That email, that dreadful, dreadful email we got.
- The dark day when we were told that we couldn't be on TikTok anymore.
- And I get this email that because of security reasons, we're all being asked to delete TikTok on government and military phones.
That was a sad email.
That was a tough one.
♪ ♪ From a perspective of a young person, I have pretty much no conceptions about privacy, because in all honesty, I've grown up with everyone seeing everything.
The way that we use these social platforms, we often don't think about the global impacts.
- TikTok's ownership by a Chinese parent company subject to Chinese surveillance law has made the app's popularity problematic, causing concern from the U.S. army, the navy, the TSA, the DNC, the RNC, and the Biden campaign, all banning TikTok from their phones.
[helicopter blades whirring] - There were many young soldiers in the military who were using TikTok.
They were in all sorts of U.S. military bases around the world.
And so they would go, and they would do push-up contests.
They would, you know, do tours of the bases.
And, you know, they were really showing some pretty top secret assets to anyone in the world wanting to see them.
And this was at a moment where people were not taking TikTok seriously.
But what they realized was this silly little kids' app was collecting a ton of information on GPS and location of all of these soldiers.
And all of that in the end was heading back into a Chinese company.
- ♪ It's not too long, it's not too long ♪ ♪ It's not too long for you to call back ♪ ♪ And normally I would just forget that ♪ - From a nation state's perspective, well, data is the new oil.
If I can understand the connections between people, I can start to target my misinformation so that one person is likely to take actions in the real world, like vote.
So the data that TikTok collects is on par with what the other social media companies are collecting.
So the question really becomes, why is TikTok being picked on?
Xenophobia should certainly be considered as part of this.
We've seen a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
And so I think being very clear about the differences of the practices of a government versus the people that happen to reside inside of that nation state--after all, I don't agree with 100% of the things our nation does.
- ♪ I'm singing Trump 2020, Trump 2020 ♪ ♪ Trump 2020, Trump 2020 ♪ ♪ I'm singing Trump 2020, Trump 2020 ♪ - When I first found Gen Z comedians online, it was so inspiring to me as a comedian in seeing how easy it is to build traction on apps like TikTok.
♪ ♪ One of my friends had posted that Donald Trump's Tulsa rally had free tickets, and my first thought was just, "How easy is it to get a ticket?"
Guys, Donald Trump is having a rally.
All you have to do is give your phone number.
And so I got two tickets.
But I totally forgot that I have to pick every individual piece of lint off of my floor and then sort them by size, so I can't make it for Friday.
I had realized the potential of this.
You should be really careful going to do this.
You know, you don't want a bunch of empty seats.
And when I had posted it, I didn't think much of it.
But in two days, it just blew up.
- Oh, my God!
I just registered for Trump's rally, and I'm so excited to not go.
- We've never had an empty seat, and we certainly won't in Oklahoma.
- TikTok users may well be President Trump's latest adversary after thousands of people who'd gotten tickets online didn't show up, thanks to a secret campaign on TikTok.
- We had gotten over a million tickets sold, and only 6,000 people showed up.
- President Trump was frustrated and angry.
- "He yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats."
- TikTok is definitely giving teenagers new power.
- I think it's unbelievable that I was able to prank an American president.
- Trump nemesis New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gloated... - As soon as that rally happened, that's when the rhetoric on TikTok rose to a level that we hadn't seen before.
The real China hawks in his administration were ready to go after this company, and they were kind of waiting for the moment.
And this rally and the pandemic came together to give them that moment that they needed.
- The Pentagon, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the TSA have all banned their employees and service members from using TikTok on government devices.
And we know that it's a national security risk.
- People really pounced on this moment, not only the China hawks in the U.S. government but also the tech companies, particularly Facebook.
- Do you believe that the Chinese government steals technology from U.S. companies?
- Congressman, I think it's well-documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies.
- And so Mark Zuckerberg saw this as a moment, and Facebook pounced on this moment where TikTok was getting under pressure.
And he said, "I'm gonna turn this up even more."
And so they started making their case to the different people in Congress who were really going after Facebook.
And they were saying, "You know what?
"You're looking at us as the boogeyman, "but we're just a distraction from the real problem, "which are the Chinese tech companies.
"And those are the companies that you should be looking at."
- Now, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that not only did Mark Zuckerberg publicly go against TikTok.
It lobbied behind the scenes against the company in a private dinner with the president.
- There was a moment during the pandemic where cases were going up.
We didn't have a vaccine.
Donald Trump's campaign wasn't doing so well.
And so Donald Trump started really hammering this idea home that we need to blame China for the coronavirus and this pandemic.
- Kung flu, the Chinese virus.
- Why do you keep using this?
- 'Cause it comes from China.
- A lot of people say it's racist.
- It's not racist at all.
No, not at all.
It comes from China.
- Trump loved that.
He wanted to play to that, because it became this kind of rallying cry in the U.S. to go after China.
And TikTok kind of became this symbol of China at that moment.
- There have been more than 2,500 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes.
- It's not just in the U.S. Asians around the world have reported discrimination linked to coronavirus.
- Asian hate, it didn't just start now.
It was always there.
It was always there.
It's really hard right now to be a Chinese-American.
- Suddenly, because of the pandemic, TikTok became this symbol of this fight between the U.S. and China and a way for Donald Trump to kind of deflect blame.
- It all started last Friday when President Trump sent shock waves through social media after making this comment.
- We're looking at TikTok.
We may be banning TikTok.
- The president threatened to block the popular video app citing national security concerns.
- No, we're not a national security threat.
And we've said that time and again.
We have very strict data access and controls.
- TikTok has said, "American user data "is stored in the U.S. and backed up in Singapore, not in China."
- We are at a time where we're seeing a-- very much geopolitical tension, as you know, between the U.S. and China.
And we are in the middle of that.
- In China, there is a cybersecurity law that states, "If we ask you for information, then you have to give it to us."
- A 2017 law mandates that Chinese-owned companies have to cooperate with the Communist Party.
- And so that's kind of the heart of the problem.
TikTok can swear up and down that they've never been asked to give information, but that doesn't stop the Chinese government from taking information in the future.
I remember this moment where we have the pandemic, we have Black Lives Matter protests, we have wildfires in California.
Like, the world feels like it's falling apart, and the only thing people on the news are talking about is this ban of TikTok.
- Just the threat alone has already had a huge impact.
Advertisers have been hitting pause on campaigns worth millions of dollars.
- It caused absolute chaos in the tech industry.
Like, Apple and Google and everyone was sort of struggling to get a handle on it and thinking, "Can a president even do this?"
- Yo, what's up guys?
I'm sure all of you guys heard the news.
TikTok's gettin' banned.
- I'm going across TikTok, and all my friends are saying bye to TikTok and, "It's so sad I have to leave you guys."
There's another one that's saying, "Please follow me on all my other social media."
And I was fearing for my career.
- I have 5 million followers.
How can this get banned?
This is my living.
It's what I do.
- And I'm starting a video petition with #SaveTikTok.
- You all mean the world to me.
Thank you for everything.
Thank you for the career.
Thank you for making all my beatbox dreams come true.
Yeah, it was tough.
I thought of a million different possibilities.
I'm like, "Maybe I gotta perform, "or maybe I gotta go busk or something.
Like, what am I gonna do?"
Like, it was definitely tough for me to see, because I didn't want that to happen.
- A few days after the executive order, we hear that Microsoft is in deal talks to buy TikTok.
Then we started hearing, okay, well, maybe Oracle wants to buy TikTok, maybe all these other companies, you know, because if they bought TikTok, then it would no longer be owned by a Chinese company, and suddenly that would be okay for Donald Trump.
And oh, by the way, Donald Trump also wanted to take a finder's fee and give some money to the Treasury, which was probably the most bizarre part of the entire storyline.
TikTok kept saying, "We're trying to find a deal.
We're trying to find a deal."
But in the meantime, nothing was actually happening.
And then the Chinese government stepped in.
- Tonight state media have been lashing out once again saying that Beijing would, "Undoubtedly prepare proportional countermeasures for what it says could become piracy and looting by the United States.
- All of a sudden came this law that banned the export or sale of any artificial intelligence from China.
ByteDance and TikTok at its core is an AI company.
And that was really what stopped the discussions and could prevent the sale of TikTok.
- TikTok is one of the opening salvos in an emerging battle of technology between the world's two largest and most dynamic economies, a new tech Cold War.
♪ ♪ - And then the November U.S. presidential election started heating up.
And the story of TikTok became the biggest deal of the century that never actually ended up happening, because Donald Trump lost the presidency, Biden took over, and we never revisited it.
- Well, it turns out the clock won't stop for TikTok.
President Biden has signed a new executive order voiding the Trump-era decision seeking to ban the social media app.
- Everybody, calm down.
TikTok is not getting banned.
- I just love how Trump tried to ban TikTok, and now TikTok has banned Trump.
- TikTok is just one app in what is going to be a long line of new ways of communicating.
Can we have the reach without the vulnerability?
Can we have the financial independence without being subject to this kind of hate?
And I think the solution to this lies in relationships, that we need to redefine the relationships between creator, consumer, tech, and government, because regulations on all ends are not keeping pace with the culture that we're setting online.
♪ ♪ On the internet, we treat others like they're disposable, but we know that nobody is disposable.
Okay, Mama, what do you think of my haircut?
- I love it.
- You love it?
My mom has now been sober for a little more than four years.
And now we have a really great relationship.
I actively work to remind myself that she's someone who's capable of change.
As a digital native, it's exhausting to grow up and make mistakes in front of everyone.
The things you put on the internet are forever, but... Hey, how's it going?
- I founded GenZ Girl Gang, because social media can be used as a community-building tool.
As my generation gets older and we live more life documented, I hope that we learn to live with this technology and really live with it, right?
Live full lives with it, live our mistakes through it, that we can all create the space for one another to--to change.
♪ ♪ - [beatboxing] - I have a lot of followers.
Like, right now, I have 54 million as of yesterday.
- [beatboxing] - We follow you.
Can you take a picture with my kids?
- Of course I can.
- Oh, my God.
- They're about to cry right now.
Aww, don't cry.
- Don't cry.
- Don't cry.
- I'm happy.
- Yeah, we're happy too.
You're gonna make me cry.
- Let me take a picture really quick.
- [beatboxing] - [laughs] My boy, Spencer!
That's my boy.
- You guys have a great day, all right?
- Thank you.
That was awesome.
- It was so great meeting you guys.
To me, I think fame is that support you give people that didn't really have it before you existed.
- I follow you.
Oh, let me follow you guys back.
- I follow you on TikTok.
- I just put out a music video, like-- - Uh-huh, I saw that.
- You did?
Aww, thank you.
♪ ♪ I want kids to be like, "I know I can do that too.
I know there's a chance out there."
I would have never dreamed in a million years that it would happen like this.
TikTok has really changed my entire life.
♪ ♪ [percussive music] ♪ ♪ - It's graduation day.
I'm definitely nervous.
I'm trying to wear my Afghan sash to graduation.
I was told that I can't wear the sash, because it goes against dress code.
♪ ♪ I want to show that no matter what people say about me, at the end of the day, I'm proud I'm Afghan, and there's no other human being like me.
Take a lot.
Just tap a lot.
And if it glitches, use your phone.
It feels a little embarrassing to see, like, my mom and the whole family, like, celebrating me graduating, 'cause I'm like, "Ugh, it's not that big of a deal."
But then I look back at it, and I'm like, "Honestly, it is, 'cause I'm the first female in my family to graduate high school."
My mother, she went to elementary school.
But then once the violence in Kabul, Afghanistan, got too much, she had to be taken out at third grade.
I'm the first anyone in my family to even go to college now.
- Oh, my God.
[cheers and applause] - Welcome to graduation for the class of 2021.
[cheers and applause] - I didn't expect myself to go viral and be this activist.
What inspired me to speak up was seeing those around me staying silent.
♪ ♪ [cheers and applause] - Feroza Aziz.
[cheers and applause] - I want to do more in the future on human rights issues.
And I want to do more than just speaking on social media.
I actually want to physically help.
[cheers and applause] - Thank you.
[light music] ♪ ♪ - TikTok has infiltrated American culture, the Hollywood and entertainment system, and politics, and all of these different facets of American life in such a deep way.
There's very legitimate reasons to think critically about the impact that this massive tech conglomerate is having on America.
And it's really important to think about issues around data privacy with all of these tech platforms.
- It's called the LOG OFF Movement, and it's a nonprofit organization.
It's really been started by kids for ways to promote healthy ways to exist on social media.
- I was really inspired by the LOG OFF Movement.
They're a group of high school students from all over the planet.
They're not just telling people to spend less time on the apps.
They're pushing back by talking to members of Congress, by talking to people at the platforms themselves to try to change how these systems are built.
Companies like TikTok need to be watched.
They need to be held accountable the same way that we hold other institutions of power accountable.
- TikTok has tightened privacy measures.
Anybody under 15 will automatically have a private account.
Federal regulators have already ordered the app to disclose how its practices do affect young people.
- Personally, I don't think it's fair to single out an individual company just because it's popular.
Personally, I think it makes more sense to pass cohesive laws against all companies so that not only can TikTok not do some of this, but neither can Facebook or Google or Amazon or any of the companies regardless of nationality.
- [beatboxing] - If the story ended today I would say hands down TikTok won.
[phone beeping] All the Trump ban did was make TikTok even bigger because it caused people to download the app.
It caused people to talk about it.
And so all it did was create more growth and more revenue for this Chinese company that is even bigger in the U.S. than it was when Trump first started going after it.
Now, the story is not over.
- [beatboxing] ♪ Everybody wants to be somebody ♪ ♪ Everybody wants to be somebody ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Everybody wants to be somebody ♪ ♪ Everybody ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Be somebody ♪ - Generations before us didn't have the same power as we do now, and that's technology.
You have power.
You can create change.
- ♪ Tik TikTok Boom ♪ - ♪ We're the generation happened in moment ♪ ♪ You thought you were in control ♪ ♪ We put it into motion ♪ ♪ And you can never own it ♪ ♪ Look at how the sky falls down on ya ♪ ♪ Under the weight of millions over voices ♪ ♪ Down on ya ♪ ♪ If I knew what I know now ♪ ♪ I wouldn't want to ♪ ♪ Dive in with my head down ♪ ♪ Oh, you'd rather stay quiet ♪ ♪ Too late to go right now ♪ ♪ So can you cry yourself while I ♪ - ♪ Tik TikTok Boom ♪ - ♪ Ohh-ahh ♪ ♪ Ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh ♪ ♪ Ohh-ahh ♪ ♪ Ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh ♪ ♪ Ohh-ahh ♪ ♪ Ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh ♪ ♪ ♪ - ♪ Tik TikTok Boom ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Tik TikTok Boom ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪♪