(Vancouver) Ssonia Ong didn’t think a 25-second video she posted miming the story of her college sweetheart, marriage, and then four kids to music would go viral on TikTok.
Three years later, with 9.2 million subscribers, Ssonia Ong doesn’t know what she would do without this app.
She is one of many Canadian “influencers” who depend on the app and who are expressing concern over growing calls around the world to ban TikTok over the possibility that its Chinese owner may allow the transmission of sensitive user data. to the Chinese government.
Lawmakers in Canada, the United States, Europe, India, New Zealand and others have banned the app from government devices, despite assurances from the owner of the short-form video app, ByteDance, that the information would not be used by the Chinese government or to promote pro-Beijing propaganda.
Ms Ong, who lives in Vancouver, said in an interview that she understands the security and data protection issues are significant, but would be “very disappointed” if the platform were to be banned altogether, as its reach is “unprecedented”, setting it apart from similar platforms.
“Most certainly, these are of great concern to those of us who rely on TikTok. There are so many small businesses thriving and surviving here,” Ms Ong said.
Although Ms. Ong does not give an exact figure, she said her annual income is in the six figures by partnering with different brands.
“I have a manager who helps me negotiate contracts and we are careful at this stage who we work with. I need to feel authentic,” Ms. Ong said, adding that most of the brands she has collaborated with are baby products and snacks.
Tina Nguyen, a mural artist from Ontario and content creator on TikTok, said fear of a ban will not only affect her professionally, but also personally.
“We’ve grown so much thanks to TikTok,” Ms. Nguyen said. So I don’t want to lose that. »
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With the help of TikTok, Ms Nguyen said her business revenue had grown to seven figures in two years and her workspace had also grown from her 37 square meter apartment to a 371 square meter warehouse.
“We have a great community there supporting us. I wouldn’t want to lose this community that genuinely cares about our well-being and wants to help us. »
Darcy Michael, a comedian and actor from British Columbia, stressed that he couldn’t “blame TikTok for privacy issues” when other social media platforms are doing the same thing, selling the same data for profit. lucrative.
“If governments ban one social media app on their phones, they would be foolish not to ban them all, because they all work in the same industry.
“They’re all collecting data,” said Michael, who runs a TikTok channel with his partner, Jeremy Baer, who has 3.5 million followers.
As a comedian, Michael said he spent 15 years trying to find his audience in Canada.
Although he had some “mediocre success”, it wasn’t until he started posting his stand-up act on TikTok during the pandemic that he was successful.
“And it felt like I had finally found my audience. It changed our lives. It was reassuring not to have ruined my life,” Mr. Michael said with a laugh.
Mr. Michael, Ms. Ong and Ms. Nguyen were among eight creators who had the chance to meet with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew earlier this month in Vancouver to talk about the effect the app has had on their lives and their communities.
According to Brett Caraway, a professor of media economics at the University of Toronto, the security concerns about TikTok stemmed from its parent company’s headquarters in China, which is subject to Chinese jurisdiction.
“It is true that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to provide data on its users and that could be someone living in the United States,” Caraway explained.
But he said much of the current focus on TikTok is due to the fact that there has been an “escalation of tensions” between countries like the United States, Canada and China.
Dropping TikTok as a content creator would incur additional costs that could be quite high, Caraway said.
“If you’re a content creator and you have millions of followers and they’re all on TikTok and that’s your source of income, your switching costs are pretty high because if you’re trying to migrate to another platform, there is no guarantee that all of your followers will come with you,” Mr. Caraway concluded.