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Why Banning TikTok Won’t Solve the Problem

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Image featuring the Chinese flag with the TikTok logo superimposed. This visual representation highlights the association between TikTok, a popular social media platform, and its Chinese origin.

It’s not ironic at all that time might be running out for the company named “TikTok.” Unfortunately, this is where we find ourselves in parallel tandem with the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and the debt ceiling vote looming around the corner.


Is the TikTok conundrum a distraction, or does it warrant serious concern? Is Washington really worried about American interests, or is this just another attempt to transgress constitutional integrity at the expense of national security? There’s a lot to unpack here, so get your lattes ready. Order your (insert food delivery platform of choice here) and let's dive in!


Image of a statue placed in front of a study table. The statue serves as a decorative element, adding artistic flair to the study environment, creating a visually appealing and inspiring workspace

Societies around the world have surrendered their privacy in exchange for social status. It's not even about connecting anymore or maintaining relationships that otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance. For the most part, phones have bridged the connectivity gap. Now people simply want to show what they’re doing, how they’re doing, what they’re selling, what they’re driving, what they're eating.


Unless you've been completely out of the loop, you may have noticed that your nieces or daughters are frequently doing quirky dances while mimicking trendy, youthful individuals on an app called TikTok. But what exactly is TikTok? Simply put, it's a social media platform that enables individuals and businesses to create and share content. It functions in a similar manner to Instagram and is protected by America's first amendment, which upholds the freedom of speech for companies like these.


Image of toys standing in the middle of a truck, hoisting a red flag. The toys' action of hoisting the red flag symbolizes a playful representation of protest, unity, or a symbolic statement against tiktok.

TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. It started in 2016 and has become the world's third most popular internet service, with more than a billion active monthly users. Part of the app’s success is due to an eerily accurate algorithm that delivers customized and highly engaging content. Some feel the app must be too invasive to result in such a high level of accuracy regarding user demographics and interests.


It's important to note that TikTok is not the only social media platform that utilizes addictive algorithms. In fact, this is a common practice among all social media companies. Therefore, it's safe to say that TikTok's addictive nature is not the sole reason why Congress is pushing to ban the app. It's worth noting that addictive social media platforms can actually benefit the government, rather than the other way around.


The primary concern of Congress regarding TikTok is its Chinese ownership. Lawmakers are worried that the Chinese government could potentially utilize the platform to disseminate propaganda and harvest sensitive American data, thereby posing a threat to American interests. While the argument may have some merit, it's important to consider the nuance of the situation.


How Our Own Institutions Contribute to Propaganda


 A person appearing half of a newspaper, with the word 'America' above and a blurred image of the person below.

There have been concerns about foreign interference and propaganda on social media platforms, including Facebook, during the 2016 presidential election. While there were investigations and hearings about Facebook's role, the company was not shut down by the federal government.


Shutting down a major social media platform like Facebook would be a significant decision that would likely have significant consequences for both users and the company's business operations. Additionally, if one platform were shut down, it is possible that those seeking to spread propaganda would move to another platform. Therefore, it is important to address these concerns with a more comprehensive and long-term strategy rather than solely relying on platform bans or shutdowns.


The prevalence of propaganda and misinformation in our society is largely due to the lack of access to reliable and trustworthy information. In many cases, the news and information sources that people rely on have been replaced by entertainment and sensationalized content.


Person holding a microphone, standing amidst a crowd, and discussing the topic of the TikTok ban.

As a result, many individuals are vulnerable to falling for propaganda and misinformation, as they do not have the tools or resources to distinguish between credible and false information. This makes it all too easy for individuals to be swayed by powerful and persuasive messages that offer alternative explanations to the world around us.


The absence of in-depth and critical analysis in certain American journalism is a cause for concern, as it can aid in the dissemination of false information. This may imply that instead of combating propaganda, we are simply swapping it for another.


The Business Of Social Media


Image focusing on the eyes, nose, and forehead of a person looking directly at the viewer. on Tiktok ban

The primary objectives of social media businesses often revolve around data harvesting. However, when a business manages to collect the personal data of a significant portion of the world's population, it raises the question of how to handle such immense power.


Managing a vast amount of private data ethically is a daunting task, as people have varying perceptions of what constitutes acceptable use of their personal information. With billions of individuals worldwide, it's inevitable that someone's ethical boundaries will be violated. While data farming presents challenges, it's also integral to providing tailored user experiences that benefit both consumers and businesses.


No Compromise?


Image depicting the vacant exterior of the Chinese parliament building. on tiktok

Zhou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, announced that they would permit American data to be stored on US soil by an American third-party firm, with parent company ByteDance being excluded from access to American user data. However, Congress has not accepted this proposal as a viable solution. This raises questions about why they are hesitant and what information they may possess that the public is unaware of.


By not allowing an American company to handle user data, it appears that Congress lacks trust in the ability of domestic firms to safeguard such sensitive information. This raises the question of why this lack of trust exists. Unfortunately, the answer is painfully simple: people of all backgrounds and organizations have been known to compromise security for personal gain. While this may be disheartening, it's, unfortunately, a reality that exists within human civilization.


Image featuring a surveillance camera resembles the  TikTok platform, sparking discussions about privacy concerns, data security, and the potential implications of surveillance in relation to TikTok's ban.

I personally believe that the global competition among our technology and financial leaders can have a positive impact on society, as it can foster innovation and ultimately lead to greater capabilities and wisdom. However, it's important to acknowledge that competition can also bring challenges and difficulties before positive changes are realized.

It's no secret that the United States has sacrificed its own interests and compromised its security for some time now. This is relevant to TikTok because it's become clear that all social media platforms are vulnerable to propaganda. It's curious that Congress has chosen to focus on the TikTok issue, which is relatively insignificant, right around the time when the debt ceiling increase vote is due to occur. This may serve as a convenient distraction from other pressing issues, as the TikTok ban effort garners significant attention despite its relatively minor impact.


The Russo-Ukrainian conflict makes an issue like this that much more marketable to the American palate due to the political polarization of our planet. China and Russia on one side and the US and the west on the other.


The Debt Ceiling

People walking on a city street near a mailbox covered in graffiti featuring a founding father as Congress debates the possibility of a TikTok ban.

If China is truly a concern for national security, why not consider lowering the debt ceiling rather than increasing it? If we raise the debt ceiling again, it raises the question of who will buy that debt. Could China potentially become one of the lenders and increase its stake in the US Treasury?


As such, it's important to weigh the risks and prioritize accordingly. Should we focus on shutting down a single social media platform, which is just as vulnerable as others, or prioritize safeguarding the US Treasury, which is a unique and essential institution?


United States of Dismay

Image depicting a powerful sculpture capturing the struggle of individuals fighting against a bull, symbolizing resilience and determination in the face of challenges. This artwork resonates with TikTok ban and survillance

The ongoing debate surrounding TikTok appears to be a distraction from more pressing issues, and unfortunately, many Americans struggle to differentiate between genuine concerns and distractions.


This may stem from a larger societal trend towards superficiality and prioritizing individual self-interest over community wellbeing. It seems that we're often more concerned with following the latest trends and fitting in than addressing substantive issues. It's disheartening to see that the principle of 'bread and circus' continues to hold sway in our society


USA flag in the center of image

Privacy, data farming, social media, freedom of speech, propaganda, and national interests/security all converge around the subject of TikTok. All these issues are due to become even more complex and difficult to solve with the introduction of deep fake media and AI.


In the best case scenario, TikTok could serve as America and China’s first joint venture. In the worst case scenario, we transgress our own first amendment protection at the expense of TikTok, setting a precedent that we have yet to see unfold.



Signing off,


Hebert

Executive Producer

Altered State Productions


 


About Altered State Productions

Situated at the crossroads of creativity and technology, Altered State Productions crafts media masterpieces that deeply resonate. Their Brand integration, amplified by a strategic agency partnership with SEMrush, doesn't merely tell stories—it shows that there is science in art.

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