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The globalization of TikTok: Strategies, governance and geopolitics

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This article examines the rise of TikTok in three aspects: globalization strategies, data and content policies, and geopolitical implications. Instead of focusing on app features and uses within the platform proper, we situate and critically analyse TikTok as a platform business in a global media policy and governance context. We first unpack TikTok’s platformization process, tracing how TikTok gradually diversifies its business models and platform affordances to serve multisided markets. To understand TikTok’s platform governance, we systematically analyse and compare its data and content policies for different regions. Crucial to its global expansion, we then look at TikTok’s lobbying efforts to maintain government relations and corporate responses after facing multiple regulatory probing by various national governments. TikTok’s case epitomizes problems and challenges faced by a slew of globalizing Chinese digital platforms in increasingly contested geopolitics that cut across the chasms and fault lines between the rise of China and India as emergent powers in the US-dominated global platform ecosystem.

Keywords: ByteDance; China; TikTok; geopolitics; globalization; platform governance; tech lobby

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Toronto Scarborough 2: 0000000459032808Duke Kunshan University

Publication date: June 1, 2021

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Digital Media and Policy (formerly known asĀ International Journal of Digital Television) aims to analyse and explain the socio-cultural, political, economic and technological questions surrounding digital media and address the policy issues facing regulators globally. This double-blind-peer-reviewed journal brings together and shares the work of academics, policy-makers and practitioners, offering lessons from one another's experience. Content is broad and varied, ranging from a mixture of critical work on technology, industry and regulatory convergence, to the emerging wider socio-cultural and political questions such as the application of online networks, the rise of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. We intend to examine critically emerging wider questions such as the role of 'digital citizens', the regulatory environment for the new platform industry and the role of state regulation in an increasingly global media industry.
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