How To Succeed On TikTok? We Asked Platform Representative Paula Kornaszewska (Interview)
About security on TikTok with Paula Kornaszewska, head of operations at TikTok for Central and Eastern Europe.
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The platform for creating and sharing short videos with musical motifs, aka TikTok, is a phenomenon. It was created in 2016 and within a short period of time it became the fastest growing network ever. TikTok has over a billion users worldwide.
There is concern around TikTok, mainly due to security, as the application is developed by the Chinese company ByteDance. Data from it can thus be misused by Beijing. But TikTok denies the application's connection with China. "We operate based on the regulations of the European Union and Great Britain. Collecting sensitive data on behalf of China is something we have never even been asked to do," Kornaszewska states.
We talked to Kornaszewska, among other things, about TikTok's algorithm and how content is checked.
Is TikTok a social network for the dancing generation Z?
TikTok is not actually a social network, but an entertainment platform. Entertainment is at the core of all our creativity and the joy we want to bring to people. And why not a social network? What you see on the main page of TikTok isn't just content that your friends post, it's related to something that interests you and makes you feel special. At the same time, it allows you to see content from anywhere in the world.
It's about variety, because TikTok doesn't just focus on what you already know. 62% of our users come to discover new things and 33% say they actually learn something new on TikTok. So it's also about discovering new things and also about discovering yourself.
We don't like to publish specific demographic numbers, but the vast majority, around 90 percent of our users, are adults.
What topics do young people respond to?
TikTok is not only for young people, but basically for everyone. We have 20-year-olds who consume content related to music, games, community, integration into the community, or even travel and personal relationships. For example, thirty-year-olds like to watch comedy content about life in marriage or with children. And forty-year-olds, in turn, look for content related to their job, solve the balance between work and private life or take care of their own mental health. So we cannot say that only one thing is "trending", because TikTok is to a large extent a certain "image" of each individual. I'm going to have something completely different on the main TikTok page than you or other people have. This is also the reason why we call it "for you feed", meaning that the content is aimed at you.
Many trends are also related to pop culture. For example, June, July and partly even August are under the sign of "rainbow" (pride month), and a lot of content on TikTok is therefore related to diversity at that time. Travel videos work well during the holiday period. Music consistently brings our community to a boil. But it doesn't have to be just new hits. An example is Kate Bush's song "Running Up the Hill" from the 80s, which went completely viral on our platform. It is related to the popular series "Stranger Things" and is, in essence, about never-ending creativity.
As head of operations for Central and Eastern Europe at TikTok, Paula Kornaszewska is responsible for the content and community on the platform, as well as for the biggest activities that take place on the platform. Previously, she worked for several years for various global technology companies and startups in an international environment. In private, she is interested in oriental culture, self-motivation and sport.
What age groups use TikTok?
Everyone uses TikTok regardless of age, but our users are definitely young at heart. They are creative, enjoy life, and a sense of humour is definitely important to all. And also courage, authenticity and the ability to show your true self. You don't have to be perfect, in our application you are allowed to make mistakes or even fail to a certain extent.
In the first quarter of 2022, we removed 20 million accounts globally that we suspected were users under the age of 13.
But if we should represent it numerically? Let's say that TikTok is most often used by people under the age of 25?
We don't like to publish specific demographic numbers, but the vast majority, around 90 percent of our users, are adults. At the same time, it is no secret that the most common representatives of TikTok are mainly millennials and people from generation Z.
There are many predators on social networks such as TikTok, who write very unpleasant messages to young people, especially on "live streams". How do you deal with this problem?
Security is definitely a priority on our platform. As I mentioned before - we want our users to be authentic, creative and active. But we are fully aware that we have to provide them with a safe environment. In the first quarter of 2022, we removed 20 million accounts globally that we suspected were users under the age of 13. During the same period, we removed 100 million videos that violated our community guidelines. This is approximately one percent of the total volume of all videos uploaded to the platform. In addition, more than 90 percent of the videos were removed before they had any views and were reported within 24 hours. Those deleted videos could have contained a hint of harassment, hate speech or anything inappropriate.
We are very strict about following the rules in accordance with our community guidelines, with no exceptions. At the beginning of 2022, we updated them with diversity and inclusion. This means that we do not allow misogyny (hate, contempt or prejudice against women) or hate speech towards transgender people on the platform. We cooperate with many organizations and institutions around the world, so these principles are reflected at the local and global level.
In recent months, we've also implemented a whole set of rules and features that encourage friendly and positive discussion on the platform. We remove – of course – comments that violate the Community Guidelines, and authors can continue to report comments or accounts individually or in bulk for review. We've enabled reminders to guide creators to comment filtering options and bulk blocking and deletion options. A reminder will appear for those creators whose videos appear to have a high proportion of negative comments. This work is in addition to the many tools already available to the community. Community members can filter all comments for manual review or filter comments containing keywords they have selected. Creators can also choose who can comment on their content from Everyone, Friends (followers who are also following), or Nobody. The "Everyone" setting is not available to people under 16 years of age.
We are building really large internal teams and we are intensely focused on content moderation.
How does TikTok review content uploaded by users? Do I have to report the content, or are the videos evaluated by machines or people?
Most of all, our users must follow the community guidelines. That's our bible. And I'm sure if they do, they're on the safe side. And of course we have a large team of people working on it. Content management is related to the fact that we have to support our users and provide them with security. So, whenever you have a problem with anything in the video, you can of course contact us. You report the video in the application and state the reason why it might be a problem.
The basic layer of control consists of technologies that "guard" content, hashtags or keywords. More than 90 percent of problematic videos on our platform have already been proactively "caught" and deleted, using a combination of technology and the human element. We are building really large internal teams and we are intensely focused on content moderation.
I ask because we published an educational video about orgasm on the Refresher platform, which was subsequently blocked by TikTok. At the same time, the "black out challenge" is trending on the platform, in which users suffocate themselves on video. How will TikTok deal with it?
If there is even the slightest hint that a video might violate any rules, we try to stay on the safe side. And of course it can sometimes be very sensitive. I understand your point about releasing it for educational purposes, but it's more important to us to provide a safe space for our users than to risk it. We have zero tolerance for risky situations.
Transferring data to China is something we have never even been asked to do.
And what about the "black out challenge"?
Of course, this is a very, very sad case. And that's why we're intensifying security rules. Part of the whole effort is also our educational activities that we do on and off the platform, with institutions, with schools, with NGOs and so on. We also proactively measure what happens on the platform. In many cases we also offer some tips on who to turn to or talk to. Challenge predates TikTok and we have never found any evidence of this type of content trending on our platform. We do not provide search results or hashtags related to this challenge, which means that when someone searches for #BlackOutChallenge, they will see a message that directs them to our safety centre.
TikTok is one of the fastest growing platforms. But a number of experts are concerned about how China approaches user data. US Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr has therefore called on the heads of Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their mobile stores. What is TikTok's position on this?
I will refer once again to our security guidelines and set of mechanisms that we strive to implement and improve on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. In Europe, we operate on the basis of the regulations of the European Union and Great Britain. We strictly follow all rules related to GDPR. We store the data of US users and 100% of our traffic in the US goes through the Oracle Cloud. Transferring data to China is something we have never even been asked to do. TikTok isn't even available there.
TikTok also has a specific algorithm. How to use it to be a successful TikToker? Do hashtags work for better reach?
It's good to be yourself and it's good even if you make mistakes, even if you're having a bad day. TikTok is a supportive environment. It definitely helps to be creative, use our editing tools, but don't overdo it with effects. As for hashtags, yes, they work to interact with users. Most people don't actively search for content based on hashtags, but hashtags help get specific content on your home screen. On the other hand, more important than hashtags are authenticity and creativity.
My advice for those who want to start with TikTok: Choose your niche. And not only the content you want to produce, but also the region you want to focus on. Also, what do I really want to talk about? Do I want to talk about my private life or my lifestyle, travel or my educational experiences or my work? Those who want to do it more professionally should have a clear idea about this. Also, of course, don't forget about our Community Guidelines and make sure you follow them.
Other changes will concern the length of the videos. We currently allow 3 minute videos, but we want to go further.
Is there such a thing as "prime time" on TikTok? Is it better to add videos in the morning or in the evening?
That depends on your followers. Of course, we can provide you with an analysis of the content you post. Based on this, you can see when users watched your content and whether they watched the video to the end or maybe stopped somewhere. So make sure every part of your video is interesting. You can also try to evoke some emotion in your users, perhaps to surprise, frighten or amuse them.
So we cannot talk about a universal rule. We focus on you and your followers and try to solve their needs. Whether they are from the Czech Republic, Germany or Austria. If they are from Vietnam, you have to pay attention to the time difference.
Where is TikTok headed? What are the plans for the future?
We want to remain a place that gives people space for creativity and joy. We want to develop more video editing features. TikTok already offers a set of tools that make editing videos easier than ever, but we plan to further develop this to support the creativity of our community with in-app features.
Other changes will concern the length of the videos. We currently allow 3 minute video, but we want to go further. We want to give our users freedom of choice. If people want to pitch their story or create educational content in 15 seconds, that's totally fine. But we want to give them the opportunity to go into longer forms as well.
At TikTok, I love the dynamics of our work, which is never boring or monotonous.
What length of videos are we talking about now?
We already allow videos under six minutes for some regions. And I think we will also provide creation within 10 minutes.
But most of all, we want TikTok to be for everyone. To be a safe platform with content about sports, cooking, travel or DIY. We want to create a space that bridges generations so that grandparents or parents can make videos with teenagers. Diversity and inclusion are also a big focus for us.
Paula, why do you work for TikTok?
TikTok is definitely a big phenomenon and it is an extremely interesting platform that is evolving very quickly. I built my career on TikTok - before this role, I managed the community for Poland, then I moved to the leading position for Poland. And right now I am the head of operations for Central and Eastern Europe.
At TikTok, I love the dynamics of our work, which is never boring or monotonous. It is also about the variety of projects - we work with television stations or radio stations. We also work with amazing institutions like the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Czech Republic, or the Transylvania International Film Festival in Romania. We focus a lot on diversity and inclusion, which is extremely important to me personally as I am part of the LGBTQ+ community. So the company's internal values are in line with my personal values.
Managing this really fast growing company is also a challenge. And I enjoy challenges. Additionally, TikTok allows a lot of freedom if you have a vision and can make it happen. This is different from other companies I have worked in before. So here I am. And I think that's something that really suits me.
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