The social media TikTok is developed in China, but the Chinese themselves are not allowed to use TikTok. Instead, the Chinese use an app called Douyin.
Danish Television broadcaster, TV 2, has tested how big the difference is between the two platforms.
TV 2 asked ten-year-old Alma Louise from Middelfart to turn on TikTok for ten minutes and then recorded her feed. Afterwards, they asked ten-year-old Mao Xinyu in Beijing to log-on to Douyin and then recorded her feed.
Just by counting the number of videos in the ten minutes, there is a big difference between the two apps.
Alma Louise from Middelfart was presented with 38 videos with music, dance and influencers in her ten minutes on TikTok. Mao Xinyu from Beijing was presented with only 17 videos in her ten minutes, and they consisted mostly of educational material for children.
And although the test consists of only one Danish girl and one Chinese girl, according to experts, the difference is no coincidence.
The government in China has introduced rules that children can only use Douyin for 40 minutes a day. If they look at the screen for too long, the app forces them to take a break. The company behind Douyin makes no secret of the fact that they are trying to make Chinese children smarter.
“It’s almost as if they recognize that technology has an impact on children’s development, and therefore have created their own healthy version of TikTok, while exporting the opium version to the rest of the world,” says Tristan Harris, Google’s former ethics officer.
Tristan Harris is not the only expert who sees a clear trend in the girls’ examples.
André Ken Jakobsson, who researches hybrid warfare at the University of Southern Denmark, wonders about the difference in the videos the girls were presented with.
“It is difficult to see it as anything other than a conscious choice,” he says to TV 2.