In Tunisia, TikTok at the heart of the revolt

Across the world, teenagers use it to post choreographies or skits. In Tunisia, it is against the political order in place that the TikTok platform has become trendy. It allowed young Tunisians to give visibility to their anger, reports the local site Nawaat.

As social unrest spreads across the country [depuis le dixième anniversaire de la révolution tunisienne, le 14 janvier 2021, les manifestations se multiplient], social networks play an important role in relaying images and videos of the protests.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, TikTok has recently won in Tunisia, especially during the confinement of March 2020. The images of clashes with the police surge on the platform and are widely viewed. The social network is particularly popular with the youngest, the age category at the forefront of the protests shaking the country.

Youth, the platform’s core target

Launched in 2016 in China, the platform now has 800 million active users worldwide. In Tunisia, there is no data on the number of users of this application, nor their average age. But statistics worldwide show that 41% of its users are between the ages of 16 and 24. More generally, according to 2020 data, the number of Tunisian internet users has reached 7.55 million, or 64.20% of the population.

Habiba Alaya, 27, community manager, notes the growing influence of the Chinese application in Tunisia, especially during protests. “Many users share patriotic songs or scenes of demonstrations”, she says to Nawaat. According to her, the enthusiasm for this platform in such circumstances is due to the fact that it is “Plus safe” than other social media.

Unlike Facebook [très utilisé durant la révolution de 2011] or Instagram, for example, TikTok gives more freedom to users. There is no risk of censorship or blocking of publications.

Another difference with other social networks, TikTok allows you to reach a larger number of Internet users without restrictions. It is for this reason that the YouTuber Louay Cherni, alias Must Last, has chosen to publish content there. “I can reach a lot of Internet users who are not necessarily subscribed to my account”, he says to Nawaat. He specifies that the platform does not allow him to determine the age of his audience but he estimates that his subscribers are between 13 and 24 years old.

Greater “freedom of tone”

Allowing you to post short videos accompanied by music, sketches, choreographies embellished with special effects, TikTok is “Easy to consume: there are no writings or advertisements”, Habiba Alaya specifies. This feature of the platform makes its users “plus addicts”, she adds. Application users spend an average of fifty-two minutes a day there, and 90% of them log into the app every day and repeatedly.

The community manager also insists on the freedom of your bet on TiKTok. “There is more freedom compared to other social networks. Users don’t want privacy. There is no voyeuristic aspect that we find on Facebook or Instagram, for example ”, she says. Moreover, a young user of TikTok preferring to remain anonymous confides:

All my family and our neighbors are on Facebook. My parents, my aunts, my uncles… They’re all there. Even my grandmother is there. So if I want to do what I want, I have to be on TikTok. ”

Political influence

The creative freedom offered by the application and its ease of use make any user capable of becoming a content creator on this social network. However, since its global rise, TikTok has come under fire for its abusive practices regarding personal data and certain security breaches. In Tunisia, the National IT Security Agency (Ansi) recommended, last April, not to use this application after the revelation of a security breach.

Become object ofa showdown between the United States and China, TikTok is also a political weapon. Many political figures across the world have landed on the platform with the ambition of reaching a younger audience. It also stirs up the mistrust of politicians fearing its influence, as in the recent American elections.

Rihab Boukhayatia

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