Perspectives on TikTok in Singapore

By April 6, 2023 April 14th, 2023 Research Publications

Perspectives on TikTok in Singapore

With congressional discussion about TikTok in the United States ongoing, and potentially significant decisions about to be made about the social media platform’s ownership and presence, we asked our survey panel how they felt about different aspects of TikTok.  Here is what the 165 locals we polled had to say.

According to recent statistics, there are over 1.8 million active TikTok users in Singapore who are spending an average of 16 hour a month on the app. A majority of our respondents are both aware of the potential TikTok ban in the United States, and that its parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese-owned. A majority also indicated that they have experience with the app.

On the question of TikTok being a risk to national security in the context of both the United States and Singapore, a large number of respondents indicated that they do not feel the app poses a risk – 44% in both cases. 27% of all respondents believe that TikTok poses a national security risk to America, while 30% believe the same for Singapore.

This proportion is somewhat mirrored by 38% of respondents agreeing that TikTok should be heavily regulated in Singapore. A relatively smaller proportion of 19% agree that the app should be banned instead. Additionally, a significant number of respondents remained neutral about TikTok being heavily regulated or being banned in Singapore – 41% and 33% respectively.

A majority could be found, however, when asked if TikTok poses a greater threat than other social media platforms, with 62% feeling that it does not, while 21% feel that it does. 17% are unsure.

Despite high app usage across Singapore (including among those surveyed in this poll), 50% feel “neutral” about the widespread use of TikTok, while positive and negative feelings are split 27% to 23% respectively. Neither does the recent news surrounding TikTok appear to be impacting the app usage of those polled. Out of those who use the app, 70% indicated that their TikTok usage was not impacted by the issues surrounding the company.

Finally, we asked our panel to rank several prominent issues being raised about Tiktok. Ranked highest on average by respondents was “Intrusive Data Collection,” with over 70% of all respondents placing it within their top 3 concerns. However, the specific issue of user data being leaked to the Chinese government was ranked relatively lower at 4th on average. 22% of all respondents ranked it last overall.

The second and third ranked issues were related to the TikTok algorithm, which is is a highly intuitive and personalised proprietary system unique to the app. While the algorithm does impact content and how users view content, our respondents on average ranked specific issues surrounding content censorship and propaganda content last and second last respectively. 

This quick poll reveals a general sense of awareness of TikTok and the details surrounding prominent criticism and issues. However, it also reveals split feelings about its potential risks and varying levels of concern among respondents.  This was also the case with the question about feelings towards widespread Tiktok usage, with positive and negative responses being comparable. Interestingly, we did not observe sharp or distinct age-group specific trends in our panellists responses.

These poll results also suggest that respondents have specific concerns about the app and give less weight to other issues. For instance, many indicated concern over intrusive data collection while being less concerned specifically about that data being shared with the Chinese government. This could be significant when seen in in the context of majority respondents feeling that TikTok does not pose a greater risk than other social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

With Singaporean CEO at its helm and many Singaporeans employed in its Singapore offices, TikTok as a platform will remain part of local communication spaces, news-sharing, and content production. While this poll has offered a glimpse into some perspectives Singaporeans have about the app and company, it also opens the door for further questions to be asked about how Singaporeans perceive TikTok and its fraught place on the international stage.

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