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March 12, 2024

TikTok Just Overplayed Its Hand

Now, Congress is acting earnestly to get the social media company out of Chinese hands.

The Chinese-owned social media giant TikTok has increasingly become a threat to American society. Its pernicious influence has explicit consequences for both the adults and children who use it, but TikTok also serves as a borehole for the Chinese to spy on the American public.

While all social media seems to do more harm than good, TikTok, in particular, has several features that make it alarmingly addictive. It’s a video platform with a doom-scroll feature and endless content. It is also a popular platform for influencers to sell their products (which makes getting rid of the app difficult for some on an economic front).

Its influence on kids, however, is extremely detrimental and even dangerous. American teens are some of the biggest consumers of the social media app. Researchers have found two very disturbing facts. First, Ekō, a corporate watchdog group, conducted an experiment wherein a group posed as young teens to see if that qualification would affect the algorithm. The “kids” were bombarded with destructive content and suicidality within the first 10 minutes of scrolling down the “For You” page. Second, the version of TikTok that is available to Chinese teens is significantly different and a more educational platform that celebrates achievement in academics.

TikTok has been on Congress’s radar for a while. About this time a year ago, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew made a public plea to Congress to allow the platform to continue operating as usual. Several attempts have been made over the years to shut down the platform or get it out of Chinese hands.

The Trump administration attempted to stop TikTok in the U.S., demanding the same thing that Congress is pushing now: that the app’s U.S.-based operation be sold to an American company or that the app be banned entirely. “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” former President Donald Trump said then. What did the CCP say at the time? TikTok was a “strategic asset.”

Sadly, Trump has since changed his tune in favor of keeping the company to provide a check on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business,” he warned. “I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!” That much may be a fair point, but he missed the mark with this: “There are a lot of people on TikTok that love it” and “a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it.” No, they’re going crazy with it.

It’s also worth noting that if TikTok is sold to an American company, it’ll still keep the other social media companies in check, which is the preferred alternative for some American lawmakers to solve this CCP spyware issue.

O'Leary Ventures Chairman and “Shark Tank” star Kevin O'Leary offered to do just that on Monday. “What I’m proposing is purchasing these assets into a new American company,” he said. “I’ll guarantee the servers are on American soil. I’ll guarantee you will close the Chinese back doors in the code. I’ll guarantee it becomes safe for the users, the parents, small businesses, and large businesses. It’ll be an American company.”

Recently, TikTok was up for discussion again in Congress, with leaders on both sides of the aisle trying to decide on the best course of action for a nascent bill they were crafting. They were set to vote on the bill last Thursday. According to The Wall Street Journal: “As lawmakers prepared to consider the legislation on Thursday, users of the app, which is accessed by more than 170 million Americans, saw notifications urging them to complain to their House representative about the bill. Then the app let people call their representative with a few presses of buttons, fueling congressional concerns about TikTok.”

The congressional members’ phones were bombarded with people of all ages calling to voice their thoughts about a TikTok ban to the point that phone lines were overwhelmed. Worse, callers made death and suicide threats.

Despite the organized intimidation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee ultimately voted 50-0 to advance the bill that would force TikTok to be sold to an American company or else be banned in the U.S. Ironically, TikTok overplayed its hand. TikTok proved the point that has been concerning Congress, which is that the app is able to mobilize its users in a way that comes off as sinister. Though encouraging people to contact their congressional representatives is a right of American citizens (after all, they are supposed to work for us), the fact that a Chinese spyware app was able to influence its users and essentially dupe them into doing its bidding is extremely troubling.

TikTok is facing the first serious attempt to get the app out of the hands of the CCP. Of course, it’s going to fight like crazy for that not to happen. It’s a useful spy tool that has a grip on “influencers,” American teens, and others. The CCP isn’t going to give that up without a fight.

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