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One of the most popular social applications today. Photo: Pixabay.

TikTok is singled out for keeping donations for Syrian refugees

The platform would keep near 70% of the money that would be destined for families in difficult conditions of vulnerability.

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According to an investigation published by BBC News, the Chinese social media giant is benefiting financially from the tragedy experienced by displaced families surviving in refugee camps in Syria.

TikTok is the fastest growing social media app in the world, with more than 3.9 billion downloads and more than $6.2 billion in revenue from in-app spending.

While viewers of live broadcasts have the ability to send animated gifts to allocate financial donations to content creators — ranging from digital roses, which cost pennies, to lions or virtual universes, which cost around $500 — beneficiaries only receive a small final percentage.

The BBC News Experiment

Last June, the news network wrote to TikTok questioning about the amount of money it receives for gifts donated in its application, without getting a response. This led the BBC team to take on the task of broadcasting live from a TikTok account set up in Syria.

After sending $106 in TikTok gifts from an account in London, being the only ones to donate, the balance of the test after finishing the broadcast was $33, thus showing that the application had taken 69% of the value of TikTok gifts.

Likewise, at the time of withdrawing the money, an additional 10% had to be allocated to pay the commission for the service, so that in the end the amount received was only $19.

Phone displaying the TikTok logo. Photo: Pixabay.
Phone displaying the TikTok logo. Photo: Pixabay.

"Agencies"

Many of the families who request donations live from the refugee camps in Syria do so sponsored by people who provide them with telephones and Internet connections to make their requests to the whole world.

“Our team followed over 300 live accounts from camps in Syria. We found that many earned more than $1,000 an hour in gifts, but families in the camps say they receive a tiny fraction of the money donated to them,” said BBC.

In addition to the high percentages that they must pay to receive their donations, the report also points to the presence of intermediaries that are being supported by "live agencies" in China, which work directly with TikTok as "live streaming guilds,” and which are part of TikTok's global business strategy to bring live streamers to the platform.

The agencies, contracted by the platform to support content creators to produce more attractive live broadcasts, to attract more publicity and gifts, told the news network that TikTok pays them a commission based on the duration of the live broadcasts and the value of the gifts received.

When the BBC contacted TikTok directly, it banned all accounts and issued the following statement:

We are deeply concerned about the information and allegations brought to our attention by BBC, and we have taken swift and rigorous action. This type of content is not allowed on our platform, and we are further strengthening our global policies on the exploitation of begging.

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