May 30, 2024 - Business

TikTok's reputation takes a hit as U.S. tries to force a sale

A line chart shows Tiktok's Harris 100 reputation scores--overall, vision, trust and ethics--from 2020 to 2024. While the scores started high, they've all fallen significantly since 2020. Tiktok scores highest in the area of vision, while trust and ethics have plummeted to "poor" levels.
Data: Axios Harris Poll 100; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

TikTok and its Chinese owner, ByteDance, continue to have one of the lowest reputation scores across all of the companies measured annually in the Axios Harris Poll 100, thanks to bipartisan concerns around social media safety and security.

Why it matters: TikTok has faced a wide set of challenges since entering the U.S. market in 2017, and a new U.S. law requiring the company to sell itself to a U.S. owner or face a ban has darkened the public's perception of the app.

By the numbers: TikTok and ByteDance's combined reputation score has plummeted from "fair" in 2020 to "poor" in 2024, according to the poll.

  • Core attributes, such as trust and ethics, have declined further each year.
  • Meanwhile, attributes more closely related to innovation, such as growth and products and services, have marginally improved and remained flat year-over-year, respectively.

Zoom out: TikTok's reputation score may also be taking a hit because Americans tend to trust domestic companies more.

  • Businesses seen as quintessentially American, such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, saw a boost in reputation rankings this year — notably from independents and Democrats.
  • TikTok, along with Chinese e-commerce giant Shein, continued to fall.

The big picture: Social media companies overall have fallen behind the rest of Big Tech in their reputation scores over the past year.

  • Controversial content moderation policies, the pervasiveness of misinformation, privacy and security scandals and leadership personalities have all played a role in diminishing social platforms' trust with users and advertisers, Axios' Hope King notes.

Yes, but: TikTok has ramped up its public affairs push amid increased scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers.

  • It recently commissioned an economic impact report, which touts its support of small- and mid-sized businesses in states like Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania and California.
  • The platform has also started deploying more proactive communication tactics under the helm of political communicator and former Disney CCO Zenia Mucha, who joined the company in 2023 as chief brand and communications officer.

What we're watching: The social media giant's reputation is likely to evolve as a potential sale gets closer.

Go deeper: The 2024 Axios Harris Poll 100 reputation rankings, for additional information on methodology

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