Have you suddenly found that you can no longer hear the audio in your favourite TikToks? Well, you’re not alone. Below, get up to speed on the latest issues plaguing the social media platform, and what this week’s Senate hearings—and a conflict with Universal—could mean for TikTok going forward.
Which musicians’ songs are no longer available on TikTok?
Universal Music Group, the mega-company responsible for the release of music from artists including Taylor Swift, Drake, U2, and Ariana Grande, published an open letter on Tuesday titled “Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok.” It noted the importance of, among other things, “appropriate compensation for our artists and songwriters, protecting human artists from the harmful effects of AI, and online safety for TikTok’s users.” AI has already become a major source of labour concerns in Hollywood and publishing, but Universal has specifically accused TikTok (which is known for having a very low compensation rate for artists) of “allowing the platform to be flooded with AI-generated recordings” in a manner that is “nothing short of sponsoring artist replacement by AI.”
When did TikTok officially go silent?
On Thursday morning, TikTok confirmed that it had removed music by Universal artists from its platform. Meanwhile, existing videos using that music were muted entirely.
Has TikTok responded to Universal’s big move?
TikTok released a statement of their own on Tuesday that said, in part: “Despite Universal’s false narrative and rhetoric, the fact is they have chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent. TikTok has been able to reach ‘artist-first’ agreements with every other label and publisher. Clearly, Universal’s self-serving actions are not in the best interests of artists, songwriters and fans.”
And then why was TikTok mentioned in Senate hearings this week?
TikTok was one of a number of apps (along with X and Meta) whose CEOs were called to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the topic of child safety on Wednesday. Tennessee Republican senator Marsha Blackburn warned the app’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, that “Nashville will not be rolling out the welcome mat for you,” while Republican senator Tom Cotton insisted on badgering the TikTok CEO about his ties to China (he’s Singaporean), even asking, “Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?”
Where does TikTok go from here?
A first-of-its-kind state ban on TikTok was recently blocked from taking effect in Montana on the grounds that it violated users’ free speech rights, which might indicate that other legal challenges against TikTok might not fare well either (despite the lengthy Senate hearings). That said, we’ll have to wait and see how users respond to a version of TikTok that doesn’t include music from their favourite artists.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.