The timing of the possible Donald Trump TikTok ban is very eerie. TikTok has been around for a while and the same China privacy concerns always existed.
However, the administration didn’t publicly mention banning the app until the Black Lives Matter movement exploded on TikTok and Facebook announced its plan to come out with a new copycat TikTok app called Reels, which is expected to launch in August.
“Reels was designed to directly challenge TikTok’s growing dominance,” said TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez. “In a new area in the Instagram app, Reels allows users to create and post short, 15-second videos set to music or other audio, similar to TikTok.”
Trump can wait to ban TikTok once Facebook’s app is announced and handover even more power to the social media company that failed to moderate violent and hurtful posts (white nationalism) that helped Trump get elected.
Facebook would basically have a monopoly over the largest social media apps in the world: Instagram, Facebook, and Reels (basically TikTok).
Facebook owning a social media monopoly is a scary thought. Facebook already is a scary company. So is setting a precedent that allows the United States government to censor internet content by banning TikTok.
Samm Sacks, a senior cybersecurity policy fellow at Yale Law School, thinks, via Vox Media, banning the TikTok app would be “an important step toward the US government controlling the way that Americans use the internet, which is ironically a step toward Beijing’s own cyber-sovereignty, the very thing we’ve been railing against for years.”
TikTok privacy and censorship concerns are fair, but let’s look at both sides of the debate
While Facebook may have a lot to gain from the possible TikTok banning and the Black Lives Matter movement might have something to lose, let’s look at both sides of the TikTok debate because it is a nuanced one.
Why should TikTok be deleted?
- Data collection
- aids in artificial intelligence software helping China beat the United States in the race to artificial intelligence
- Data collection on a mass scale can be used to influence people’s behavior and influence elections or political sentiments
- Look at how Facebook helped Cambridge Analytica help Donald Trump win the 2016 election
- “Our report that a political firm hired by the Trump campaign acquired access to private data on millions of Facebook users has sparked new questions about how the social media giant protects user information.” – New York Times
- What does TikTok collect?
- From BBC:
- what videos are watched, commented on
- location data
- phone model and operating system
- keystroke rhythms people exhibit
- reads copy and paste clipboard
- “Much of TikTok’s general collection is comparable to other data-hungry social networks such as Facebook”
- Influence conversation on the app
- The Chinese government could promote certain movements that are favorable to the Chinese government or any other political agendas and influence people (if they have app influence)
- But let’s not act like bad information doesn’t spread like wildfire on Facebook too
- Revealed: how TikTok censors videos that do not please Beijing
- Inside TikTok: A culture clash where U.S. views about censorship often were overridden by the Chinese bosses
- “In November, a New Jersey teen posted a viral TikTok discussing the Chinese mass internment of Muslims (and was subsequently locked out of her account).” – Vox Media
- It is unclear the influence that the Chinese government has over ByteDance which owns TikTok
- China has already been caught trying to spread disinformation on social media – New York Times tells you more here
Why should TikTok not be deleted?
- Sets a bad precedent for censorship on social media
- What apps in the future will be banned? Who will be banning those apps in the future?
- Limits voices of the younger generation including progressive voices and minority voices since TikTok is a younger audience
- China can already hack people’s information if they want to
- “I find the data privacy issue to be a bit of a red herring,” says Jordan Schneider, host of the ChinaTalk podcast and newsletter. “The Chinese government has many likely more impactful ways of getting blackmail or corporate secrets or just general information about individual US nationals.” – Vox Media
- While the app might help China gather data to build artificial intelligence, banning the app might negatively impact the United States’ ability to access international data which would, in turn, limit the United States’ ability to build a successful artificial intelligence software
- If the United States bans TikTok then you could imagine a scenario where many other social media apps from America are banned in other countries limiting the United States’ ability to collect data and build better artificial intelligence themselves
- Banning the app is an excuse for not finding a solution for data privacy that not only works for TikTok but other American tech giants like Facebook that abuse user data
- Let’s not pretend TikTok will be the last social media controversy
- Find a way to make TikTok secure so it not only fixes this one situation but future problems as well. Best to find a solution that doesn’t involve banning because that sets a scary precedent
- TikTok says the data is kept separately away from Chinese influence (but they wouldn’t tell us the Chinese government was spying on the app it if it was)
About Ryan Lipton
Ryan is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Business Journalism. He has written in the past for SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride, USA Today Sports Media Group, North Carolina Business News Wire, the Daily Tar Heel, and has worked with Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league. Ryan is also a regular contributor to MeidasTouch.com
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