While this news is pretty huge for the competitive world of social media, as it more than triples TikTok’s previous July extension to three-minute-long videos, it comes at a pretty strange time.
“The TikTok War” has become a trending title for the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The platform is being used in a mix of fascinating ways. Some Ukrainians are posting TikTok videos in order to enlighten the world on what is really happening in their country, from tracking Russian troop movements, to demonstrating how to drive an abandoned Russian tank, to footage of grandmothers saying goodbye to their friends.
Other videos feature misleading footage taken from war films and unrelated situations as if they were currently taking place in Ukraine, including a paratrooper floating from the sky, which has been viewed over 26 million times.
Russia is said to be using TikTok as a modern vessel for anti-Ukrainian pro-war propaganda, while respected journalists from around the world are gaining a significant amount of information from Twitter, including embedded videos with the TikTok watermark.
Wired published a stat that truly helps one understand the volume of traffic on TikTok, and its increased popularity since Russia invaded Ukraine:
Between February 20–28, the number of views on TikTok videos tagged #ukraine rose from 6.4 billion to 17.1 billion. That’s an added 1.3 billion views day after day, or 928,000 views per minute. #ukraine, written out in Cyrillic, is equally popular ,with 16.4 billion views.
“When TikTok has worked correctly, it has helped the world understand the horrors going on in Ukraine. But when the app’s systems have been gamed by bad actors, it has tainted the world’s understanding of the war and sowed confusion far beyond the normal fog of war,” says Wired.
I’m curious to know whether TikTok’s notable video-length extension will have any major effect on this disorienting, and likely harmful, fog.
While most news sources aren’t merging their reporting on the 10-minute extension with the current war, folks on Twitter (obviously) have some opinions, as noted in these tweets.
The current “misinformation crisis,” as one Twitter user calls it, may be exacerbated by this new time feature, as disgruntled TikTokers could quite possibly weave longer, more specific and misleading narratives surrounding the status of the war -- though Ukrainian supporters’ footage could do the opposite. Others believe that misinformation is more successful in short-form video, which provides just enough time to match a viewer’s bias.
Right now, it’s difficult to say whether long-form videos will even be popular. While TikTok obviously wants longer videos to succeed, this seems to be a move made to try to rival YouTube, maintaining its popularity of short-form video while integrating (somewhat) longer videos to gain increased ad revenue (of which YouTube did $28.8 billion in 2021).
“We continue to closely monitor the situation, with increased resources to respond to emerging trends and remove violative content, including harmful misinformation and promotion of violence,” a TikTok spokesperson told Engadget. “We also partner with independent fact-checking organizations to further aid our efforts to help TikTok remain a safe and authentic place.”
Awaiting the first 10-minute long TikTok video that takes on this current war, I am curious to see its effect on what’s to come -- which, in terms of the war, is also unknowable.