TikTok sale or ban now more likely

Advertisements appearing next to pro-Nazi content on X, MKBHD receives criticism for his Humane AI Pin review, and more...

Happy Monday!

Thankfully I’ve never had the misfortune to be forced into one of those shame-inducing PR videos that corporations like to share on social media. Accenture was rightly roasted for their latest effort, and I sincerely hope the people involved in that video are getting the support they need…

P.S. Read to the end to find out why MKBHD was forced to defend himself, and all the best reporting and resources from last week!

For anyone with us for the first time, welcome to Inbound News! Just 10-15 minutes every Monday to catch up on the previous week. I cover the stories that matter with smart analysis and resources to help make sense of all the noise. But always with a healthy dose of skepticism and self-awareness. 😉 

👍️ Social media

Revised TikTok bill looks likely to force sale or US ban

A new bill was passed in the US House of Representatives that requires parent company ByteDance to sell TikTok or see it be banned across the US. The TikTok-related legislation is part of a massive $95 billion national security bill which includes aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, helping it to pass 360-58 with support across a majority of both Republican and Democratic law makers.

It was just last month that the first TikTok bill was passed in the House, which hasn’t been voted on in the Senate yet. The new bill would give ByteDance nine months to sell the app, instead of the six-month deadline in the previous bill. President Biden can also extend this deadline up to another 90 days if they have made sufficient progress on its sale but need more time to close it out. This change was a suggestion from a Democratic senator to make it easier for ByteDance to divest themselves of the app and avoid its ban.

Bundling the TikTok legislation with the defence spending for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan was also a clear move by the House Republicans to help it through the Senate. While the Senate could strip out the TikTok legislation and return the bill to the House, this is unlikely as the national security bill is seen as a priority and doing this would cause too much of a delay in passing the bill.

Assuming the Senate passes the bill, it will go to Biden’s desk to sign into law. He’s indicated support for the previous version of the bill, so this is expected to be a formality, despite TikTok’s efforts to persuade him not to sign. With the CEO of TikTok expressing their willingness to fight the previous bill, there’s a good chance that we’ll be mired in a state of litigation for some time before TikTok’s ultimate fate is confirmed.

Some First Amendment legal experts claim TikTok may have a strong case on the basis that the reference to foreign adversaries is just a cover to censor the app and its users, therefore stifling free speech. The question they pose is why the House didn’t look at less-restrictive alternatives for data security that affect all social media apps, not just TikTok.

Speaker Mike Johnson stared down the MAGA Republicans and pushed the package through the House because of the need to strengthen key allies as they battle America’s foreign adversaries (Russia, Iran, and China). The government may now be in a stronger position to insist the TikTok legislation really is about foreign adversaries as they seek to curb China’s threat to American dominance. Recent claims from ex-TikTok employees that the platform has been working closely with its Chinese parent also boosts the security argument.

It may take time, and maybe the courts will strike it down or China will end up letting ByteDance sell off TikTok. The Chinese government has just forced Apple to remove American social media and messaging apps from their App store, due to national security concerns. Which seems to support the US government’s case in any litigation. If you’re currently relying on TikTok for all your income, the advice to diversify your income streams has never been more appropriate than now. The future of TikTok is murky, and there’s no guarantee it will remain in its current form in about 12 months time.

Pro-Nazi content finally too much for some advertisers on X

A review by NBC News identified more than 150 Premium verified accounts and thousands of free accounts on X had published or promoted pro-Nazi content. The content included sharing Adolf Hitler’s speeches, praising his fascist genocidal regime, and denying the Holocaust occurred.

Even more disturbingly, these aren’t posts that are pushed to the margins of the platform. As an example of the visibility of these posts, NBC News identified seven of the pro-Nazi posts on X accrued 4.5 million views in total during one seven-day period in March. More than 5,300 accounts shared a post with 1.9 million views denying the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Just days after the report was published, Hyundai announced they would be pausing all advertising on the platform. They would be speaking to the company about brand safety to address their concerns. It came after freelance journalist Nancy Levine Stearns posted on X an example of a Hyundai advertisement running on an account posting ant-semitic and pro-Hitler content.

Stearns also spoke to some advertisers in February when it was identified their advertisement had been appearing on pro-Nazi accounts. Most of the responses were defensive, indicating they had no control over where their advertisements are placed on the platform, but would now block the identified accounts to ensure they don’t appear on them again in the future. Which just sounds like a game of whack-a-pro-Nazi-mole?

Since joining X as CEO, Linda Yaccarino has made multiple assurances to advertisers that the platform is safe. This was reiterated just last week when she was promoting brand-safety reviewer DoubleVerify’s apology for previously reporting a lower brand-safety rating than what their data had shown them. Which makes the reports from Stearns and NBC News even more timely. I don’t know about you, but with the various advertising options available nowadays and the dumpster fire that is X, why would you bother holding your nose and place your brand at risk by advertising there?!

Fire Oops GIF

Not X’s new Head of Safety this week… Source: Giphy

⚡️ Social media quick bites

Meta (Facebook / Instagram / Threads)


Twitter (X)



💫 AI quick bites

✍️ The best reporting last week

Airchat is Silicon Valley’s latest obsession

Here we go again: Lauren Goode from Wired reports on the newest social media app based on audio attempting to grab people’s attention.

Bonus: And beware of the small print according to Dave Lee from Bloomberg.

Russian influence operation thrives on Facebook

Using Facebook Ads to sow discontent in Europe: Clothilde Goujard reports in Politico that Meta is failing to stop the spread of unlabelled political ads.

Comments may be a new way for brands to use social media

Duolingo, Starry and more brands do it: Gillian Follett from AdAge explains how brands are using the comments section in popular videos to gain attention.

Ready for AI chatbot versions of our favorite influencers?

Instagram is trying it now: Sapna Maheshwari and Mike Isaac reports in the New York Times [free article] on how popular influencers are being pitched.

🧠 Resources to level up

Organic vs paid social media

Differences and strategic tips: Hannah Macready provides a holistic approach weighing up the pros and cons on the Hootsuite blog.

Making the most of LinkedIn content as a B2B company

7 ideas to inspire content: Tamilore Oladipo from Buffer used the wisdom of LinkedIn users to identify the best content examples from B2B companies.

Short video best practices

According to LinkedIn: Since LinkedIn is the latest platform to mimic TikTok, it makes sense they’ve released this infographic to help you nail the format.

Understand Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)

Gain an advantage for your business: Jeff Riddall writes in Search Engine Journal how SGE will impact local SEO and what you can do about it.

Plus expert tips: Have you downloaded the latest social media trends report from HubSpot yet?

😲 Really?

MKBHD is criticized… for being a critic

Imagine having to defend yourself for doing a good job: Famed YouTuber Marques Brownlee (aka MKBHD) caught flak for his review of the much-hyped Humane AI Pin. In particular, Daniel Vassallo posted on X that using ‘The worst product I’ve ever reviewed… for now’ for the title and thumbnail with MKBHD’s face looking disgusted was “distasteful, almost unethical.” Essentially he thought someone with as much reach as MKBHD should be more careful about how he presents his reviews, and later stated in a reply that MKBHD “wanted to show us he can crush them with one thumbnail.” Content creator Alex Finn also claimed MKBHD would bankrupt Humane with his video review.

It’s telling that a content creator on YouTube is seen to have the same power as tech reviewers at legacy media institutions such as the New York Times. But claiming MKBHD’s review was “almost unethical” or that he alone could bankrupt Humane is ridiculous. For a start, this isn’t some indie startup where expectations were low. This is a company that raised $230 million before it released its first product, which it’s now selling for $699 plus $24 per month. Humane and the AI-hype mongers raised expectations to unrealistic levels. Reviews for the Humane AI Pin have been consistent across the board - it’s a very disappointing product at this stage, “not even close” per the Verge.

Kudos to MKBHD for posting a reply video a few days ago asking if bad reviews kill companies. As he points out, bad products kill companies. There would be no bad reviews (from legitimate reviewers such as him) if companies didn’t have bad products in the first place. Pretty simple stuff here really, and I admire MKBHD’s patience and communication style in explaining that for people like Vassallo and Finn.

Thanks for reading! 😄 

Don’t be shy! Hit reply to this email if there’s something you want to share. I love to read what’s on my readers’ minds and respond to everyone.

Have a great week. I’ll be in your inbox again next Monday!