Crypto and TikTok: Why Content About Cryptocurrencies is Getting Flagged on the Video Sharing Platform

Last Updated on September 13, 2021

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TikTok updated its community guidelines in December 2020, and in the months since some of the consequences of that change have become increasingly evident, especially to crypto creators. 

A CNBC story looked at these consequences: creators who try to use TikTok to educate the public about the various cryptocurrencies report that the videos are flagged and taken down permanently with little or no explanation. 

Why? The reason may involve international politics. TikTok has a Chinese parent company, ByteDance. Last summer, then-President Donald Trump sought to pressure ByteDance into selling TikTok to Microsoft or another “very American” company.   

ByteDance successfully resisted this pressure, with an assist from U.S. district court judge Carl Nichols, who struck down President Trump’s effort to close down TikTok operations in the United States by executive order. 

But that fight may have tempted ByteDance into decisions that would make explicit TikTok’s Chinese character: such as a position averse to cryptocurrencies, with which the People’s Republic of China has long and openly been at war. 

TikTok has had considerable executive turnover of late, precisely because ByteDance has been looking for the right leadership to guide TikTok through the perilous political environment created by national rivalries in a borderless economic setting.

Cool Features of TikTok

TikTok is a video sharing social network widely recognized for its mobile app, the 7th most downloaded mobile app of the second decade of this millennium. It was the single most often downloaded app on Apple’s App Store in 2018 and 2019. 

The app makes it easy for users to create short videos. 

It also comes with an artificial-intelligence feature. A feed of videos will be recommended to a user based on the activity on the app. Users can choose to add to favorites or select “not interested” for particulars and, of course, those choices are fed back into the algorithms future “For You” recommendations. 

But the recent changes automatically remove content that violates community guidelines, and there seems to be little room for arguing about alternative interpretations of those guidelines. TikTok is now saying to content creators, ”my way or the highway.” And its “way” is increasingly averse to the presence of crypto creators. 

The cryptocurrency industry has developed a new class of influencers, helping each other and their viewers navigate a tricky global marketplace.  

CryptoWendyO and Her Choices

The Washington Post profiled one of them: she calls herself CryptoWendyO, and she has used both TikTok and YouTube as her platforms of choice. Her YouTube channel has 70,000 subscribers and her Twitter account has 149,000 followers.

In a TikTok post in May, CryptoWendyO spent some time discussing Elon Musk, whom she called “the most annoying person in crypto,” with reference to how his seemingly capricious tweets can act like an earthquake beneath the markets. 

Established crypto influencers like CryptoWendyO are not without choices. Should TikTok’s policies or algorithms become too restrictive they can move. Of course, there is always some loss when one moves from one platform to another. More devoted followers will follow the influencer to the new space. Marginal followers won’t bother. 

But the choices are there. CryptoWendyO could do what she does on TikTok on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. And a social network is all about numbers. So they’d be happy to have her. 

TikTok Investors

Both TikTok and its parent company are privately held. But that will not always be the case. ByteDance plans to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with an IPO  either late this year or early in 2022. More specific details will likely become available in the next month.

With a public listing will come a new set of pressures for the management, and these may prove to be valuable — investors, that is, may see the value — in the continued presence of crypto influencers such as CryptoWendyO.