Report: TikTok Profiting from Exploitive Live Streams

A BBC investigation released Tuesday alleges that the social media platform TikTok has been profiting from live streams in which Syrian refugees urgently beg for cash gifts from viewers.

Report: TikTok Profiting from Exploitive Live Streams
Image credit: Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

Facts

  • A BBC investigation released Tuesday alleges that the social media platform TikTok has been profiting from live streams in which Syrian refugees urgently beg for cash gifts from viewers.
  • The children reportedly stream for hours pleading for digital gifts with cash value - sometimes making up to $1K per hour. The investigation found that TikTok is allegedly taking up to 70% of the proceeds.
  • The families in need reportedly received a fifth of the original donation, after TikTok, live-streaming guilds known as "agencies," and middlemen all took respective portions of the total.
  • To test TikTok's gifting system, a BBC journalist broadcast live from his Syria-based TikTok account and the BBC donated $106 - of which the journalist received $33.03. If middlemen and agency fees were included, the journalist would have only received $19.
  • The middlemen, who supply the families with phones and accounts to live stream, claim to be from "agencies" affiliated with TikTok in China and the Middle East. They're reportedly tasked with recruiting more content creators and encouraging people to spend more time on the platform.
  • TikTok denied its commission is 70% and claims these schemes violate its platform rules, which state you must have over 1K followers to live stream and can't directly solicit money to "prevent the harm, endangerment or exploitation" of minors.

Sources: Business Insider, BBC News, Fortune, and Breitbart.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Input. Solicitation live streams like these are against TikTok's rules for good reason. Many of them, whether they're real or not, are exploiting children who don't benefit from their videos. Users should be cautious; there are exploitive grifters online no matter how hard social media platforms work to curb them.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Yahoo News. Though TikTok claims to be cracking down on these live streams and saying they're against the company's terms and conditions, many videos are shamefully still online. If TikTok was truly against these exploitive stunts, it would have simply shut them down earlier rather than take a cut for itself.