Maryland has gone viral on Tik-Tok: scary or beneficial?

Many+students+like+Austin+Betz+%28above%29+took+advantage+of+the+popularity+of+Maryland+Tik+Toks%2C+and+made+a+viral+video+that+got+on+many+students+for+you+pages.+
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Maryland has gone viral on Tik-Tok: scary or beneficial?

Many students like Austin Betz (above) took advantage of the popularity of Maryland Tik Toks, and made a viral video that got on many students for you pages.

Many students like Austin Betz (above) took advantage of the popularity of Maryland Tik Toks, and made a viral video that got on many students for you pages.

Courtesy of Austin Betz

Many students like Austin Betz (above) took advantage of the popularity of Maryland Tik Toks, and made a viral video that got on many students for you pages.

Courtesy of Austin Betz

Courtesy of Austin Betz

Many students like Austin Betz (above) took advantage of the popularity of Maryland Tik Toks, and made a viral video that got on many students for you pages.

By Ela Jalil and Olivia Yasharoff

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TikTok has been sweeping the nation with its viral dance trends, comedy skits and lipsyncing videos. But when WCHS students noticed lots of Maryland and Montgomery County themed videos randomly appearing, they knew something was off. 

Picture this: you are mindlessly scrolling through the “For You Page” on TikTok when you come across a video about how Montgomery County is the best county in Maryland. You brush it off and might even think it is kind of cool, but when you keep scrolling you see that almost every single video has to do with Maryland and/or schools near you. You think it is just a coincidence, but evidence shows otherwise.

“At first I thought it was crazy to see Maryland because, I honestly think that we’re nothing compared to other states,” senior Laura Mendes with 87,000 followers and over a million likes said. “But as soon as I realized that my whole For You Page was Maryland stuff, I was like there’s something wrong with the location stuff.”

Representatives for TikTok did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In Dec. 2017, Musical.ly, a popular app, where people could lip synch to songs was bought by a company based in Shanghai, and was turned into the popular app, TikTok, that users know and love today.

However, TikTok is not without controversy; In Feb. 2019, TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) for allegedly illegally collecting the data of children under the age of 13 in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). 

In response to this, TikTok updated their privacy policy and their policy for younger users. For younger users, the policy requires a username, password and birthday to create an account. For users older than 13, however, more information like phone number and language are required.

In TikTok’s privacy policy they directly state that the app automatically collects information on each user’s location using their SIM card and/or IP address. This could be a potential reason why Maryland TikToks have been popping up for WCHS students.

According to the TikTok privacy policy, “We use the ‘Region’ you select in Settings to customise your TikTok experience. When you use the Platform on a mobile device, we will collect information about your location.”

Although the privacy policy claims that you can switch location services off, the only way to do this is in the overall settings for your phone which results in a loss of features like sharing your location with friends and emergency contacts. It is not easy to find this information in their privacy policy and as a result, most users are not aware that their location can legally be tracked by the app.

Although the sudden increase in Maryland content is alarming for some, many users try to ignore this, and enjoy the content as usual. Some users even see it as a positive thing.

“I think that what TikTok is doing of putting Marylanders together, is bringing the community closer,” Mendes said. “More people know that others have TikToks, so it’s a great way to start making friends” 

Ever since Maryland became a trend on TikTok, creators have been using Maryland as a way to go viral, because using a trending hashtag boosts the views and likes a video gets. 

“Most of the time when I make TikToks I try to make them very relatable, on trend, or really funny,” junior Charlie Lin with 56,500 followers said. “Because Maryland was a trend and I live in Maryland, I thought it was a good idea to just make a Maryland TikTok.”

Lin got almost 3,500 views on his Maryland TikTok, and overall he has gotten 1.9 million likes on his videos. Going viral on TikTok caused Lin and Mendes to get recognized in school by fellow TikTok users. In addition, becoming “TikTok famous” allows creators to have followers ranging from all over the world to followers that go to their own school.

“For me, most people see me as a pretty quiet, reserved person in real life, so I like using TikTok as an outlet for people to see my hidden funny side,” Lin said. “Personally, being recognized at school is kind of shocking for me as I’m really not used to random people knowing who I am, so I wouldn’t call it embarrassing or cool, but more so very interesting for me.”