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Southeast Asia is Testing TikTok’s Limits

Employees working for a TikTok channel offering merchandise for sale through a TikTok livestream at a room in Jakarta, on April 4, 2023. BAY ISMOYO / AFP

ByteDance’s TikTok is learning some very valuable lessons from the past few weeks: overconfidence is bad, and a new level of creativity might be in order if it wants to keep up with Southeast Asia’s policy quirks. Charm alone is not enough in this part of the world, not today. 

Indonesia is a key battleground. In early October, the Indonesian government outlawed the use of social commerce plaforms like TikTok to sell goods. TikTok Shop, which now operates in the US, UK, and a handful of Southeast Asian countries, is effectively banned in Indonesia. 

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