Tech

Now that I think of it, the drive to ban TikTok is a little suspicious. Let’s examine that, shall we?

If you’ve been following tech news, you’ll know that the US Government is advancing a bill that would ban TikTok from American app stores until Chinese parent ByteDance sells off the company to something non-Chinese. A few other governments including Canada are also giving TikTok the side-eye. Their concern? That the app can be used by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on people. There’s a Chinese law that compels companies to turn data over to the government if they ask.

So far, so logical. China has a well-deserved rep for spying and industrial espionage. Who would want the CCP with a direct pipeline to their data?

Well, hang on. There are a few problems.

TikTok is hardly the only app that has the goods on us. Meta–an American company–already has loads and LOADS of data on users that it’s collected through Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. That data has been put to use/exploited for all sorts of disinformation campaigns. A couple come to mind: the 2016 US election and the Brexit vote. And how is it when I mention something in passing, I immediately start seeing ads about that thing showing up in my feed?

Google might have even more data on each of us through our Gmail and search habits. And don’t get me started on my suspicions about how Alexa is passing on information to Amazon about what to try to sell me next. The only big tech company I’ll give a slight pass to is Apple, which has been pretty adament about privacy and encryption. Still, what does Tim Cook know about me and why?

Second, an American TikTok ban is probably unconstitutional and an infringement against free speech. ByteDance/TikTok will die on that hill if they have to. The 170 million Americans (and 8 million Canadians) who use who TikTok won’t go down without a fight, either–especially those who use the platform to promoter their goods and services.

Third, no one–and I mean NO ONE–has provided clear and conclusive evidence that TikTok is actually dangerous. There’s nothing in the American bill that gets specific on what bad things TikTok is doing. (Read this article from TechDirt that digs into that inconvenient little truth.)

Fourth–and this is a big one–how come the highly divided, highly partisan US Government can quickly pass a bill about TikTok and not manage to pass funding for operating the government, dealing with their southern border, and providing aid to Ukraine? They can move fast if they want to. So what was so urgent about TikTok?

Here’s where it’s hard not to get conspiratorial. All you have to do is follow the money.

  1. Donald Trump was all for banning TikTok–until he spoke with billionaire donor Jeffrey Yass, who just happns to own 15% in ByteDance. Trump now says that TikTok is “less of a danger to the USA” than Meta and Facebook. Could there have been some kind of transactional arrangement made? Doesn’t Donald owe half a billion in fines for fraud and sexual assault? And doesn’t this confirm that Trump is 100% for sale?
  2. Ideally, the US Government would like TikTok to be in American hands. Steve Mnuchin, a former Trump cabinet official, says he wants to buy TikTok. Let’s say that happens. It would mean three social media networks would be in the hands of right-leaning uber-capitalists. Trump has Truth Socila (if it survives its current financial crisis). Elon Musk has ruined Twitter by turning X into a cesspool of hate and porn all in the name of free speech. And TikTok in the hands of a Trumpist like Mnuchin? Hmm.
  3. Would a TikTok ban embolden authortarian censorship? Maybe.
  4. Or is this a bipartisan effort on behalf of both Democrats and Republicans to get a little deeper into the world of information control?
  5. Or is this part of a continuing attempt by the right to seize control of social media? The Sunday New York Times had this excellent article on the subject. It’s worth reading the whole thing.

This is a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface. TikTok may just be the tip of the spear. For more, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38319 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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