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TikTok Pulls Hashtag Tracking Feature Because It’s Used for Research

TikTok recently reportedly pulled a tool that allowed researchers and others to study the popularity of hashtags on its app.

The change, first reported by The New York Times, came shortly after researchers published a report using data from the tool that criticized the company.

As The New York Times points out, the tool is one of the few publicly accessible methods for tracking details about the popularity of specific hashtags.

TikTok, like other social media companies, has made it difficult for outsiders to track how content spreads on its app.

The tool in question is a feature called Creative Center, which provides data on hashtag popularity to potential advertisers and others.

Researchers at Rutgers’ Network Contagion Institute have used the Creative Center’s search function to track hashtags deemed sensitive to Chinese government interests.

The researchers compared hashtag prevalence between TikTok and Instagram and concluded that many sensitive topics are dramatically underrepresented on TikTok compared to Instagram.

Soon after the report was published, researchers said that the search feature in Creative Center disappeared without explanation.

“The search capacity for Hashtags itself has now been removed from the user interface completely, which NCRI discovered had occurred on Christmas Day, several days after the initial release of this report,” they wrote in an addendum to the report as quoted by Tech Viral from Engagdet, Thursday (11/ 1/2024).

They added that TikTok had also disabled direct access to a number of sensitive topics they had previously tracked, including hashtags related to US politics and other geopolitical issues.

In a statement to The New York Times, TikTok confirmed the change. “Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have misused the Center’s search function to draw inaccurate conclusions, so we changed some features to ensure they are used as intended,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

The chaos is the latest example of growing tensions between social media companies and researchers trying to study thorny topics such as misinformation.

TikTok Rule The Internet

Meta is also at odds with researchers, and reportedly plans to no longer use CrowdTangle, a tool widely used by researchers and journalists to study how content spreads on Facebook.

X has also severely restricted researchers’ access to data since Elon Musk took control of the company, making previously open APIs prohibitively expensive for most groups.

In TikTok’s case, the company may be particularly sensitive to what it considers inappropriate use of its tools. The company has for years denied that it aligns its content policies with the interests of the Chinese government as many government officials have called for the app to be banned.

Nonetheless, the company has made some concessions to researchers. TikTok began offering an official Research API to some academic institutions last year, and reportedly plans to make the tool available to some civil society groups who have questioned the company’s content moderation practices.

TikTok Shop Travels in Indonesia, Prohibited by the Government until It Opens Again December 12

TikTok Shop opens again in Indonesia starting today, Tuesday (12/12/2023), to coincide with the “12.12” shopping promo program. Now, users can return to making buying and selling transactions on the TikTok Shop.

The return of TikTok’s electronic commerce (e-commerce) service in Indonesia could be said to be filled with drama. As happened before. TikTok Shop was once banned from operating in Indonesia.

Then, TikTok Shop was finally able to return to Indonesia through collaboration with PT Tokopedia (Tokopedia). In simple terms, the return of TikTok Shop in Indonesia can be seen in the chronology below:

1.TikTok Shop was officially closed in Indonesia on October 4 2023.

2.At the end of October, news emerged of TikTok’s efforts to revive TikTok Shop in Indonesia.

3.In mid-November, TikTok was said to be in talks with local marketplaces for possible collaboration as an effort to revive TikTok Shop.

4.Around the beginning of December, TikTok is said to have made an agreement with PT GoTo Gojek Tokopediav (GoTo).

5.On December 11 2023, TikTok announced that it was officially collaborating with GoTo through the Tokopedia business, to revive the TikTok Shop.

6.Still on December 11 2023, TikTok announced to sellers that they could start accessing the Seller Center again to manage their merchandise.

7.December 12 2023, TikTok Shop will resume operations in Indonesia during an initial trial period.

From the chronology above, for more details, the following is the journey of the TikTok Shop reopening in Indonesia so that it can be used for transactions starting today.

TikTok Shop closed in Indonesia

Officially, the TikTok Shop closed in Indonesia on Wednesday, October 4 2023. The closure of the TikTok Shop was the impact of the enactment of Minister of Trade Regulation Number 31 of 2023 concerning Business Licensing, Advertising, Development and Supervision of Business Actors in Trading via Electronic Systems.

Based on this regulation, social commerce platforms such as TikTok through the TikTok Shop service are prohibited from providing trading transaction services directly on their electronic systems. Social commerce platforms must only facilitate promotional activities.

Then, Minister of Trade Regulation Number 31 of 2023 also mandates that foreign electronic platforms such as TikTok must have a business license in the field of Trading Through Electronic Systems (PMSE), if they want to provide trading services on their electronic systems.

However, at that time TikTok did not yet have a permit in the PMSE sector, so the TikTok Shop was not allowed to operate in Indonesia by the government. TikTok operates in Indonesia only in the capacity of an Electronic System Provider (PSE).

For information, PSE is defined by Kominfo as the use of electronic systems by state administrators, people, business entities and the public which can be carried out for public and non-public services.

With this permit, the company can operate its electronic services in Indonesia. Meanwhile, PMSE is a trading permit where transactions are carried out through a series of electronic devices and procedures (e-commerce).

When the TikTok Shop is closed, the “Shop” menu or tab in the TikTok application disappears. At that time, users could no longer sell or buy goods on TikTok. After approximately two months, TikTok Shop finally opened again in Indonesia.

TikTok Shop is open again via Tokopedia

The return of the TikTok trade transaction service cannot be separated from the strategic collaboration with PT GoTo Gojek Tokopedia, as the parent company of Tokopedia. About a week ago, news of this collaboration circulated.

For your information, rumors about TikTok’s efforts to revive the TikTok Shop e-commerce business in Indonesia have been heard since the end of last October.

TikTok is reportedly engaging government officials and other social media companies to find ways to restart TikTok Shop operations in Indonesia. Then, quoted from a Bloomberg report, in mid-November, TikTok was said to be in talks with local marketplaces for possible collaboration, including Tokopedia, BukaLapak and Blibli.

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