The most used news app for Americans under 30 is Chinese-operated, and may be collecting very personal information about Americans for the Chinese government. At Spectator World, Geoffrey Cain raises the alarm about TikTok, writing:
The midterm elections of 2022 were many things—a shocker for Republicans, the possible end of Donald Trump, a win for centrist Democrats. Overlooked is the fact that they were also a big turning point for TikTok, the Chinese social-media platform.
TikTok is not only the most trafficked news app for Americans under 30. It was also a major political force this year. Exhibit A: the Senate race in Pennsylvania, in which both Democrat John Fetterman and his Republican rival, Mehmet Oz, deployed TikTok, with Oz railing against the cost of vegetables in one video, and Fetterman slamming Oz for saying “crudité” in a highly effective response. Other candidates who took to TikTok this cycle include Tim Ryan, who ran for Senate in Ohio, and Val Demmings, who ran for Senate in Florida. (Both are Democrats.) The Democratic National Committee, early this year, launched its own TikTok channel.
Now, there are calls to shut it down. Just yesterday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau has “national-security concerns” about TikTok. Last Friday, the top Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, called TikTok “China’s digital fentanyl.” The day before, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Mike Gallagher, both Republicans, introduced legislation banning the social-media platform, noting that the data of millions of Americans is “effectively controlled” by the Chinese Communist Party. Earlier in the month, Carr also said the U.S. government should ban TikTok.
It’s about time.
Ever since TikTok began expanding into the United States, more than four years ago, we’ve known that it was a disaster waiting to happen. What’s shocking is that it’s taken this long to get serious political attention.
I know all about this. I used to be an investigative reporter in China. In December 2017, I first heard from friends on social media that a Chinese tech unicorn called ByteDance was planning on entering the American market with a new app. It was called TikTok.
Alongside its sibling app, Douyin, which operates only in China, TikTok was poised to sweep up the Gen Z audience in America, with its preference for video snippets of dancing celebrities, DIY projects, cooking demonstrations, skincare routines and other Gen Z’ers singing and dancing in their parents’ kitchens. As the fastest growing social media app ever, it rankled American competitors Facebook and YouTube, which were banned in China.
By October 2018, ByteDance was the world’s most valuable startup, with a valuation of $75 billion.
Four years later, ByteDance is worth $300 billion. TikTok is expected to reach 1.8 billion users globally by the end of the year. And a quarter of American adults under 30 get their news from the social-media app.
There’s a good reason for this success. TikTok has developed one of the most powerful machine-learning algorithms ever—one that is able to reveal people’s unknown desires to themselves.
Every day, every hour, every waking minute, TikTok is hoovering up seemingly infinite bits of information about its users—their tastes, hobbies, political views, sexual preferences, their facial structure, the sound of their voice. Ostensibly, all this is meant to provide a better product. It should also be noted that this information can be used for spying, influencing millions of users—even waging war. Every time we swipe for the next video, every time we post videos of our own, we are helping the world’s most sophisticated police state learn more about us.
Read more here.
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