by Brittany Raymer
Former Digital Writer & Editor
A nationwide ban of the social media app seems imminent after a day of testimony before Congress
The CEO of the Chinese-based TikTok app was grilled on Capitol Hill over the popular social media app. It seems like a national ban is imminent, as worry grows that the app is a way to not only collect information on Americans, but also a way to subtly indoctrinate young people and children.
When it comes to social media, it appears that there is a new app that commands attention about every 5-10 years. Right now, that app is TikTok, a shortform video content creation platform run by a Chinese-based company called ByteDance. Though it was initially known for its dance videos, that’s no longer the case.
The content posted on Twitter by LibsofTikTok is a great example of some of the cultural rot that’s being promoted on the app. When I’ve even opened my account, which I’ve sporadically downloaded and then deleted from my phone, some of the first videos I’ve seen videos on couples who practice polyamory or even makeup tutorials by strippers.
Given that this app is extremely popular with children and young people, it would be freighting to know what’s being promoted to them when they first try to create their account.
And the version of TikTok that Americans see is not what’s offered in China. For children in the Asian country, they get access to educational and patriotic videos, like scientific experiments you can do at home or museum tours.
“It’s almost like they recognize that technology is influencing kids’ development, and they make their domestic version a spinach version of TikTok, while they ship the opium version to the rest of the world,” said Tristan Harris, an advocate for social media ethics.
“There’s a survey of pre-teens in the U.S. and China asking, ‘what is the most aspirational career that you want to have?’ and in the U.S., the No. 1 was a social media influencer, and in China, the No. 1 was astronaut,” Harris said. “You allow those two societies to play out for a few generations and I can tell you what your world is going to look like.”
Perhaps if the American version of TikTok was like the Chinese version there would be no issue, but that’s not the case.
In fact, there’s also a strong, strong possibility that the Chinese government is using it to spy on Americans, which is why several states, including North Carolina, have barred TikTok from any government issued phone and there is a growing interest in a national ban as well.
And the CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, in the U.S. did little to dissuade a Congressional committee about the dangers of the app.
When Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) asked if the “Chinese Community Party (CCP) is engaged in psychological warfare through TikTok to deliberately influence U.S. children,” Chew responded, “I’m not sure.” That’s not all that comforting.
Chew was also asked if the app was spying on American citizens, he responded, “I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it.”
Well, then what is it?
Needless to say, his time in the hot seat didn’t go so well.
He again tried to distance the company from the CCP, saying, “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”
Though he couldn’t answer if ByteDance is a Chinese company.
To try and alleviate some fears, TikTok is apparently trying to completely get American accounts exclusively on a server in the States, what they’re calling Project Texas. It’s unclear if that will ever really get off the ground or if it will actually prevent what so many are worried about.
The sad thing is, at this point, there are so many Americans attached to the app that banning it would probably lead to a large backlash from both citizens who make their living from TikTok and China as well.