TikTok may introduce group chat feature this year; Sources

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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Video-sharing platform TikTok is reportedly exploring ways to launch a group messaging feature this year, putting it in direct competition with social media rivals like Facebook.

According to reliable sources, group messaging is part of owner ByteDance’s strategy to make TikTok more of a “social interactions app”. The feature has been part of the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, since 2019.

The Chinese app will benefit from a community chat feature to hold users on the app for longer. TikTok, which is especially popular among teenagers and young adults, has been expanding its live-streaming and eCommerce offerings, and group chats will allow influencers to communicate with their fans more easily. TikTok did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

As per the sources, ByteDance had internal discussions about adding the group chat feature last year but put several changes on hold after the app came under fire from the Trump administration and was banned in India. Further, it is currently assessing when and where it will start group chats on TikTok.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has put on hold a government complaint that could have resulted in a de facto ban on the app’s use in the US, and corporate backers have rushed back to the service. Last month, the White House has stated that it had taken no new “proactive measures” concerning the Trump administration’s proposal to sell TikTok’s American operations to American investors.

The Trump administration had contended that TikTok poses national security concerns as the personal data of US users could be obtained by China’s government. The Chinese app, which boasts a user base of over 100 million in the United States, has denied the claims over it.

Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert on Tiktok’s US advisory council, has said that he had not been informed about the launch of group chats in the US but added that the platform would need to be prepared to deal with the risks that would come with expanding into social messaging.

“If you are a site that is the size of a TikTok or a Facebook, even if it’s not encrypted, you still have to worry about how am I going to moderate this material and deal with the harms,” Mr. Farid added.

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