Photo: Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir Politicians comply with security measures, but political parties cannot do without this popular platform.
TikTok has not finished counting for political strategists. Despite the ban on elected officials, parties in both Quebec and Ottawa are still relying on the app to speak to younger segments of the electorate.
The banning of TikTok in Ottawa took the Bloc Québécois by surprise. A question-and-answer session scheduled for Wednesday by MP Jean-Denis Garon was canceled on Monday “time to study the ministry's directive and the upcoming decision of the Speaker of the House”. The Bloc Québécois account was immediately deleted. However, the profile of the “Young Bloc Québécois” on TikTok displayed a new video a few hours later denouncing the Prime Minister's oil projects in the context of the climate crisis.
This ambiguity is echoed by most political parties, both in Quebec and in Ottawa. Politicians comply with security measures, but political parties cannot do without this popular platform.
“Communicating with the public, anywhere, anytime, is political 101. Staying in touch with people, where they are, that's the job,” says a source who works in political communications, but who did not wish to be named.
The figures are convincing. Jagmeet Singh, of the New Democratic Party, triumphs in the country with almost 880,000 subscribers. His viral videos reach millions of views and have helped build his reputation. The politician claimed on Tuesday to take “a break” from TikTok “even on [his] private cellphone”, without deleting his account.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre preferred to withdraw from the platform. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't have to because he didn't have an account. Regardless, excerpts from statements by these two political beasts still abound on TikTok, the result of the work of supporters or the media.
In Quebec, François Legault, the Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire and the Conservative Party were still active Wednesday evening. Echoes from parliament suggest that these formations and personalities will not soon abandon TikTok and the 1.8 million Quebecers who are there.
Reflections are beginning on the safe use of TikTok among all those responsible for political communications contacted by Le Devoir. Some think of using personal telephones reserved for this application. Others are evaluating the possibility of making publications from computers.
Because TikTok can continue to be used under certain conditions, according to the ministerial directive from Quebec. “It is still permitted for public bodies to use TikTok to reach their customers, if this use is not done through mobile devices,” says the official document consulted by Le Duty.
The appeal of TikTok among young people is too powerful to be ignored, confirms Alexandre Turcotte, vice-president of creation and strategy at the Heya agency, which specializes in the content of this platform. “[TikTok] is extremely powerful both organically and on an advertising level, where it gives incredible results.
Even if this recent setback “will hurt some organs or organisms”, the Chinese application still has a bright future ahead of it, he believes. “It gives really more interesting results than on other platforms. »
Quebec is lagging behind, notes Mireille Lalancette, professor of social communication at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR). “We're still in the appropriative ways, like when politicians started twittering in 2012. »
The parties most advanced in this state-of-the-art form of communication, namely Québec solidaire and the Conservative Party of Quebec, stand out for the fact that they “respect the codes”, observes the researcher. They are “politicians led by young people”. After all, TikTok, “is the platform for young people”.
His advice for success on the popular software? “You have to keep it short, with images, text, a lot of humor and a lot of self-mockery. We're not sending a message: we're connecting with people. »
The government's decision to tighten the screws on TikTok comes from a “snowball effect”, says cybersecurity expert at UQAM Sébastien Gambs. The United States has opened the ball, and other countries are following.
No investigation has yet proven the danger of the application, to his knowledge. But the risk is too great, since in China “there are no safeguards” regarding the use of personal data by the government.
“The risk is that you start blackmailing people, or you get unfair advantages when it comes time to negotiate contracts that involve Chinese companies,” he says.
The outcome within “two to three months” of government investigations into the application will determine whether or not TikTok's hours are counted in the country.
TikTok leaves CEGEPs, universities
The ten universities in the Université du Québec network, as well as CEGEPs, in turn prohibit the use of TikTok on their employees' cell phones, with a few exceptions. All public university executives will have to delete the app. “We are good students and we will rely on the directives of the Quebec government,” confirms the network's communications manager, Julie Martineau. Same scenario for employees of the fifty cegeps in Quebec who have a mobile phone from their employer. Other public bodies, such as the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Hydro-Québec and Investissement Québec, are also following suit. “Certain changes will be made very soon to better regulate or restrict the use of social networks, in particular blocking access to the TikTok platform,” confirms Investissement Québec, which employs nearly 1,000 people. On the STM side, the blockage “will take place over the next few days”, specifies the spokesperson for the metropolitan transport organization, who nevertheless confirms his “willingness to remain present and active on the platform” for the advertising component.