TikTok Making Money on Livestreams of Displaced Syrians Begging for Donations, Reports Say
14:01 GMT 12.10.2022 (Updated: 16:47 GMT 08.01.2023)
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Video hosting platform TikTok profits from the livestreams of internally displaced Syrians begging for donations, as the company takes up to 70% of the money that viewers send to people, according to a BBC investigation published on Wednesday.
Users of the social media app have recently seen a rising number of livestreams on their feed where families in Syrian camps are asking viewers for digital gifts with a cash value, the BBC reported, adding that it saw videos of people attracting as much as $1,000 an hour.
The broadcaster noted that it had followed some TikTok accounts of displaced Syrians
streaming from the camps for months and found out that their viewers donated thousands of dollars to them, while the people running the accounts told the news outlet they were receiving only a small fraction of it.
According to the TV channel, such a trend is being promoted by so-called "TikTok middlemen," who work for companies affiliated with the platform and provide Syrian families with phones and TikTok accounts to go live.
A BBC reporter ran an experiment where he contacted one of the middlemen, pretending to be a Syrian refugee, received an account and went live, while his colleagues donated $106 in digital gifts. At the end of the livestream, the journalist's account had only $33 meaning that the platform had taken 69% of money.
According to TikTok rules, a person going live cannot directly ask for donations and must "prevent the harm, endangerment or exploitation" of minors.
"We are deeply concerned by the information and allegations brought to us by the BBC, and have taken prompt and rigorous action. This type of content is not allowed on our platform, and we are further strengthening our global policies around exploitative begging," the company said in a statement, as quoted by the broadcaster, responding to the report.
Founded by Chinese company ByteDance in 2012, TikTok has since turned into one of the most popular social media platforms worldwide, with over one billion monthly active users worldwide.