HotToks: Gen Z for Change, The East Villains, & TikTok’s In-App Browser
Last updated on
September 12, 2022
By: Vivian Zhou
Welcome back to HotToks, where we explain 'the why' behind each TikTok trend, tap into key cultural moments, cover app updates, and share how to plan your TikTok marketing strategy. This time around we cover Gen Z for Change and ActivismTok, The East Villians, and privacy concerns over TikTok’s in-app browser.
Here we gooo!
ActivismTok: People Over Prime
We all know TikTok is not the shyest place on the internet and we’ve all had our fair share of “I wish I could unsee that.” But sometimes, the oversharing and outspokenness can be a great catalyst for change on the platform.
Gen Z for Change is an alliance of young TikTok creators and social media activists looking to incite a greater impact on society as a whole. And they’ve set their sights on e-commerce giant Amazon. Knowing that Amazon has one of the biggest affiliate initiatives (launched in 2017) with creators all over YouTube and TikTok, this group of 70 young TikTok creators (with a combined following of 51M) are pledging to not work with Amazon in a campaign they call the “People Over Prime Pledge.”
So what exactly is Gen Z for Change clocking Amazon for? The bare minimum: better treatment of its workers, starting with a fair wage and increased PTO. Some involved say it’s unethical to offer life-changing payouts to fund its influencer storefront program and not pay its workers a fair wage. Emily Rayna Shaw, a 24 YO Gen Z TikToker, with 5.4M followers on the platform, spoke out: “I want to feel comfortable recommending Amazon products to my community because it is so reliable, but I can’t do so until I know that they are treating their workers fairly.”
How Amazon is handling this matter is unclear; they have put out some corporate language via email to “address” the situation, but what is clear is that Gen Z are not stepping down. Now more than ever, Gen Z knows exactly how powerful TikTok and social media really are. As Elise Joshi, 20 YO TikToker and deputy executive director of Gen Z for Change, has put it: TikTok “controls the narrative on issues, and Amazon knows that.”
Another Day, Another Content Creator Group: The East Villains
Enter “The East Villains,” a group of overly confident content creator bros in their mid-20s living in NYC. They’re CEOs of glamorizing life in New York City through video diaries and comedic skits and have quickly picked up steam on the platform.
The Cut recently did a feature on “The East Villains,” interviewing the boys, following their day-in-the-life, and TBH, it’s what you would expect of a gang of 20-somethings (read: straight, young, & mostly single men) wildin’ out in the hottest pockets of the city. What’s so captivating about them, you ask? Maybe it’s their indie boy, tote bag, tatted-up, soft masculine (the non-toxic kind!) aesthetic. They’re relatable but really more aspirational–giving glimpses of life in the city for those who don’t live around here. Some of my favorite comments are, “My rent went up just looking at this'' and “it’s just new york magazine” (humbling) when Cody Blanc posted a video celebrating the feature. Even though they seem like the last people to pop off on the platform, people seem to be digging their content, and the overall sentiment is pretty positive.
There’s something encapsulating about bands and groups of content creators; BTS, Backstreet Boys, 1D, we’ve seen it all. The combo of personalities allows fans to latch onto a member and identify with them. But the heyday of boy band groups is no longer among us. Instead, we are seeing a quick emergence of content creator groups, like the East Villains. But these groups are also easy to catch on fire. It’s what happens when you mix work with play.
We’ve seen the notorious downfalls of Sister Squad and Vlog Squad. With over 82M views for the search term “the East Villains” on TikTok, there’s definitely something to discuss here. But if there’s one thing we know about besties who create content together… it’s that they might not stay together. Bets on when this crew might break up?
Too Close for Comfort: TikTok’s In-App Browser Code
The Internet can be a scary, scary place, y’all. The emphasis placed on privacy and online protection in the past few years has been unprecedented. There’s even been an influx of influencer partnerships with VPN companies, like NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
Now, I don’t mean to scare you even more, but recent reports are calling out TikTok’s in-app browser, saying that it might not be as secure as we think (or hope). Apparently, the popular social media app with 1B monthly active users (out of the overall 1.39B users), includes code that enables the company to track everything users type while on the app, even when redirected to third-party websites (aka passwords & credit card numbers). So everything from passwords to credit card numbers could theoretically be followed by the company. But no need to be alarmed; just because TikTok has this capability, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using it, right?
In a CNN appearance back in July, TikTok policy exec Michael Beckerman said TikTok is “not logging what you’re typing” and that it’s actually an “anti-spam, anti-fraud measure” to protect us from malicious activity. The report, originally published by Felix Krause, ended up being picked up by multiple media outlets, including Business Insider and NYT. He says, “it is an option, and that is a problem on its own.”
Krause is also coming for Apple, saying that the app review process should be more stringent: “they should prohibit any use of in-app browsers for third-party web content.” Couldn’t agree more, Krause! I mean, after all, Apple is advertising privacy. Not that we’re really shocked, sadly, but it’s the contradictions for me.