TikTok Userbase Balloons to Nearly 2.5 Million in Australia

October 19, 2020 Updated: October 19, 2020

TikTok, the controversial app under scrutiny for privacy issues and Chinese ownership, has added 850,000 Australians to its user base in just six months.

The latest figures reveal a 52.4 percent increase of the user base, growing from 1.6 million Australians in December last year, to 2.5 million by the end of June 2020. The country’s population is just over 25 million.

The app’s massive growth has been underpinned by Australia’s youngest demographic cohorts, representing 70 percent of all the app’s users, according to a recent Roy Morgan survey.

“TikTok is most popular amongst young Australians aged under 30 in Generation Z (born 1991-2005) and Generation Alpha (born since 2006),” according to Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan.

Of the nearly 2.5 million Australians using TikTok over 1.04 million are in Generation Z, and 746,000 are from Generation Alpha.

A man wears a shirt promoting TikTok at an Apple store in Beijing, China, on July 17, 2020. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo)

“Australia’s ‘digital natives’ born this century have grown up surrounded by powerful and frictionless technology as the norm and have taken quickly to TikTok,” she added. “The highest rate of usage is for ‘tweens’ aged 10-13 years old [from across Australia] with nearly 40 percent on TikTok and teens aged 14-17 years old with almost 30 percent on the platform.”

Women and girls are the dominant gender comprising 1.5 million users, compared to 1 million men and boys.

The survey results were unsurprising for Matt Warren, professor of cybersecurity at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, who said recent controversy surrounding TikTok actually helped raise the profile of the app and that ultimately for the company “all publicity is good publicity.”

“The other reason is the lockdown, so people tried to amuse themselves during that period. TikTok videos are also being shared on other platforms such as Facebook so again raising awareness of TikTok,” he told The Epoch Times on Oct. 20.

Younger generations were also less concerned about privacy and security issues, according to Warren. Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously quipped that it was “strange” Australians were sceptical of the government-backed COVIDSafe app, but would “load their dance moves on TikTok in the afternoon.”

The U.S. government has pressured TikTok to divest itself of its Chinese ownership in recent months.

China and U.S. flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken July 16, 2020. (Florence Lo/File Photo/Reuters)

The app was originally called Musical.ly but was later bought and rebranded by Beijing-based ByteDance to TikTok in 2018.

ByteDance has been criticised for its CEO Zhang Yiming’s declaration in 2018 that it would “deepen cooperation” with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP’s National Intelligence Law 2017 compels China-based companies to share data with the regime if requested. This law has sparked fears the app (and other Chinese-backed software or technology) could contain a backdoor that would allow the regime to access data on its users.

On Sept. 20, U.S. President Donald Trump gave his “blessing” to a partial buyout of TikTok by Oracle and Walmart, who would hold 12.5 percent and 7.5 percent stakes in the company, respectively. Further, four out of five board members would need to be U.S. citizens.

However, there is still uncertainty over how much control TikTok’s Chinese parent company retains over the company.

In terms of protecting younger Australians, a lot will depend on the details of the deal and how effective the new ownership structure protects the data of its users, according to Warren.