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TikTok in the Gulf : A Global Controversy

posted on: Jul 21, 2021

TikTok in the Gulf : A Global Controversy
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By: Noura Abou Hamze/Arab America Contributing Writer

Just like other markets, TikTok has created a wave in the Middle East, especially among Generation Z users who have taken to the platform to create and watch fun content. The app ranks among the top 10 downloaded apps in GCC countries and the latest figures show that it has managed to retain that popularity, despite the growing controversy.

However, what does the global controversy mean?

There has been a debate on whether the application will shut in the United States or not. Being banned in India and has inspired so many speculations on how it will be handled in other countries. Many discussions over how secure the application is have been sparked by a Chinese Report on smartphone applications. This became more controversial for TikTok as it’s the only app that achieved such global popularity.

Why Did India Ban Tiktok ? And How Will That Affect the GCC ?

India banned TikTok along with about 50 other Chinese-based apps which had a huge fan base in the country following border clashes that resulted in the death of several soldiers. By being shut down in India, the application that was downloaded over 2 billion times lost its biggest audience; as 30% of its downloads took place in India. Not only that, but the United States threatened to ban the app. The US-based tech giant Microsoft in talks to acquire the application, is sparking a lot of questions on whether the main American motive is merely a security-related one or the danger the app’s booming success is posing to US-based social media platforms. The question is whether the US involvement will affect Middle Eastern countries’ decisions.

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For example, in Saudi Arabia, more than 11 million active users of TikTok were reported by April of last year. In the UAE, three top influencers had an average of 6 million followers each; their videos gathered millions of views in such a short time, making the app one of the most influential in the GCC region. Beauty industry influencer, Huda Kattan (@hudabeauty) is one of the few celebrities to have successfully crossed over, ranking among the top UAE-based TikTok influencers with 2.1 million followers. Also, influencers such as UAE-based Sarah Miladd (@sarahhmiladd) who has seen her fanbase surge from 4 million in February to 6.6 million as of mid-August with an average of 126,000 hearts and 2,000 comments per video. Those statistics show how Middle Eastern influencers are gaining popularity and millions of followers in few months.

It remains unclear if GCC countries will be pressured to ban the app following the steps of India, Japan, and of course the US. The main question remains will TikTok be banned in the GCC? And What is the fate of those bloggers and influencers?

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