Home news TikTok profit 2023 from live streams of families begging

TikTok profit 2023 from live streams of families begging

by George Mensah
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A BBC investigation discovered that displaced families in Syrian camps are begging for donations on TikTok while the company takes up to 70% of the proceeds.

For hours, children have been livestreaming on the social media app, pleading for digital gifts with monetary value.

The BBC reported that streams could earn up to $1,000 (£900) per hour, but that people in the camps only received a fraction of that.

TikTok stated that it would take immediate action against “exploitative begging.”

According to the company, this type of content is not permitted on its platform, and its commission from digital gifts is significantly less than 70%. However, it refused to confirm the exact amount.

TikTok users saw their feeds fill up with livestreams of families in Syrian camps earlier this year, eliciting support from some viewers and concerns about scams from others.

The BBC discovered that the trend was being facilitated in the camps in northwestern Syria by so-called “TikTok middlemen,” who provided families with phones and equipment to go live.

The middlemen claimed to have worked with TikTok-affiliated agencies in China and the Middle East, which provided the families with access to TikTok accounts. TikTok’s global strategy to recruit livestreamers and encourage users to spend more time on the app includes these agencies.

The middlemen said they prefer to use British SIM cards because the TikTok algorithm suggests content based on the geographic origin of a user’s phone number. People from the United Kingdom are said to be the most generous gifters.

Mona Ali Al-Karim and her six daughters are among the families who go live on TikTok every day, sitting for hours on the floor of their tent, repeating the few English phrases they understand: “Please like, please share, please gift.”

Mona’s husband was killed in an airstrike, and she is using the livestreams to fund an operation for her blind daughter Sharifa.

The gifts they’re asking for are virtual, but they cost real money and can be withdrawn as cash from the app. Livestream viewers send the gifts, which range from digital roses worth a few cents to virtual lions worth around $500, to reward or tip content creators.

For five months, the BBC tracked 30 TikTok accounts broadcasting live from Syrian refugee camps and developed a computer program to scrape data from them, revealing that viewers were frequently donating digital gifts worth up to $1,000 per hour to each account.

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However, families in the camps reported receiving only a small portion of these sums.

The BBC conducted an experiment to track where the money goes after TikTok refused to reveal how much it takes from gifts.

A reporter in Syria contacted one of the TikTok-affiliated news outlets, claiming to be in the camps. He created an account and went live, while BBC staff in London sent $106 in TikTok gifts from another account.

The Syrian test account had a balance of $33 at the end of the Livestream. TikTok had taken 69% of the gift’s value.

Keith Mason, a TikTok influencer and former professional rugby player, gave £300 ($330) during one family’s Livestream and encouraged his nearly one million followers to do the same.

When told by the BBC that the majority of these funds had been taken by the social media company, he called it “ridiculous” and “unfair” to Syrian families.

“There must be some transparency. That strikes me as extremely greedy. It’s because of greed “He stated.

When the remaining $33 from the BBC’s $106 gift was withdrawn from the local money transfer shop, it was reduced by another 10%. TikTok intermediaries would take 35% of the rest, leaving a family with only $19.

Keith Mason, a TikTok influencer and former professional rugby player, gave £300 ($330) during one family’s Livestream and encouraged his nearly one million followers to do the same.

When told by the BBC that the majority of these funds had been taken by the social media company, he called it “ridiculous” and “unfair” to Syrian families.

“There must be some transparency. That strikes me as extremely greedy. It’s because of greed “He stated.

When the remaining $33 from the BBC’s $106 gift was withdrawn from the local money transfer shop, it was reduced by another 10%. TikTok intermediaries would take 35% of the rest, leaving a family with only $19.

TikTok hires agencies like these, known as “livestreaming guilds” and based all over the world, to assist content creators in producing more appealing livestreams.

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According to the BBC, TikTok pays them a commission based on the duration of livestreams and the value of gifts received.

TikTok, including children in Syrian camps, go live for hours at a time due to the emphasis on duration.

According to Marwa Fatafta of the digital rights organization Access Now, these livestreams violate TikTok’s own policies, which aim to “prevent the harm, endangerment, or exploitation” of minors on the platform.

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