BBC Report: TikTok profits from live stream donations given to Syrian refugees

The popular social media platform TikTok was named in a shocking new report from BBC this week that accused TikTok of profiting from donations made to Syrian refugees on its site.

According to the Wednesday report, a BBC reporter who visited a Syrian refugee camp witnessed several refugee families using TikTok’s live streaming feature to beg for cash gifts to help them in their dire situation. 

Some of them were highly successful, earning hundreds of dollars an hour, but BBC discovered the families are ultimately receiving only a fraction of the funds.

A middleman who assists the refugee families in getting their messages out to the TikTok audience via a single smartphone he passes around. He then distributes the money to the families, but says the final amount getting into their hands is far lower than the amount being donated.

“If we get a lion as a gift, it’s worth $500,” he said to BBC. A “lion” is a symbol delivered to the live streamers when a large donation is received. 

“By the time it reaches the money exchange in Al-Dana, it’s only $155.” After an investigation, BBC found, “after the commission taken by money transfer shops and middlemen, a family would get just $19 from a $106 donation.” 

TikTok has responded to the claims in the BBC report, saying, “We are deeply concerned by the information and allegations brought to us by the BBC, and have taken prompt and rigorous action.” It remains unclear exactly how much TikTok keeps in commissions from live stream donations.

The report comes the same week TikTok announced updates to its live streaming feature, including raising the minimum age to access it from 16 to 18, and adding a guest panel.




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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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