Dance challenges, parodies, hacks, and tricks—TikTok is tapping into everyone’s creative potential and unleashing viral sensations.
Although the social media platform has been in the market for about four years now, TikTok’s popularity has soared to new heights ever since the coronavirus outbreak forced the world into quarantine and self-isolation.
UK publication the Guardian has even dubbed it “the social media sensation of lockdown.” In fact, TikTok broke a record for the most app downloads, about 315 million installs, in the first three months of 2020, according to American research firm Sensor Tower.
TikTok is a video creation app that allows users to share videos up to 15 seconds long of singing and dancing to the backdrop of pre-recorded audio clips or songs. Users also share comedic clips on the app.
The app is most popular among teenagers for the fun and quirky editing features it offers.
Despite its worldwide popularity, TikTok has been met with a harsh response from Egyptian authorities.
In recent months, Egypt has cracked down on female influencers using the app, accusing them of alleged “debauchery.”
Mawada Eladhm (@mawadaeladhm), who boasts 3.1 million TikTok and 1.6 million Instagram followers, became famous for posting lip-syncing and dance videos.
Police arrested her on May 14 for allegedly “violating the Egyptian family’s values and principles” and later released after posting 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,261) bail.
TikTok and Instagram star Haneen Hossam (@haneenhossam9) was also detained for 15 days on April 22 pending investigations.
She caused quite a stir online after posting a video calling on young women to join “Likee,” a live streaming application, where they could broadcast videos and earn up to $3,000 per hour.
The Egyptian prosecutor general’s office said Hossam has been working with an “organized criminal group” to lure young women into carrying out acts “violating public morals.”
Before her arrest, Hossam posted a video dismissing claims she was calling for “debauchery.”
Another high-profile arrest was that of Egyptian dancer Sama el-Masry (@sama.el.masry), who police also detained for questioning on April 24 after she allegedly posted “indecent” photos and videos online.
Along with the detention of popular female TikTok stars, Egyptian authorities also detained a group of TikTok users after they defied the nationwide curfew by going out to the streets at night to film videos on the app.
In all of these instances, Egyptian authorities enforced a cybercrime law, adopted in 2018, that grants the government full authority to censor the internet and exercise communication surveillance.
Further, social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers can be classified as media outlets and therefore subject to monitoring.
Amnesty International warned the law would lead to “mass censorship and step up the assault on the right to freedom of expression in Egypt.”