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Tik Tok has long outgrown its humble beginnings of cringy lip syncing videos to become a global sensation. When it first came out in 2017, it was compared to Vine — another now-defunct popular video-based social media platform. And while its content is radically different, it’s looking like it’ll share the same short life if President Trump has his way.
His Aug. 6 executive order — effectively banning the app — was signed to protect national security, but something else is at play.
The executive order specifically targets ByteDance — the parent company of Tik Tok — saying its data collection puts American information at risk of falling into the hands of the Chinese government. But this is where his argument for national security falls apart.
Extensive data collection isn’t limited to foreign companies. Plenty of American companies — some of which are already gearing up to buy Tik Tok — are guilty of the same behavior. Facebook famously had a scandal in 2018 when a data-mining company got a hold of millions of its users’ data, according to an National Public Radio (NPR) article.
But the best part?
The data mining firm — Cambridge Analytica, a British company — assisted Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to an Associated Press (AP) news report.
So not only was data stolen from users without their knowledge and consent, but it was done by a foreign company — all permissible since he benefited from it.
But the hypocrisy of claiming “national security” as a reason to ban Tik Tok isn’t even the first issue we should have with this — it’s another part of a long pattern of authoritarian policies and sinophobic, or anti-Chinese, comments.
Aside from the executive order consistently emphasizing the Chinese origin of the app, there is the long and colorful history of Trump’s use of racist and sinophobic rhetoric in describing COVID-19 as either the “China virus,” “China flu” or “Kung flu” on Twitter. Banning Tik Tok is another expression of the sinophobic vitriol that has risen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
This ban is also just another example of his authoritarian policies. Silencing a form of social media — as silly as it seems — is another form of censorship that particularly affects young college-aged people like Loyola students.
As of July 2020, a little under one-third of users on the app were aged 10-19, according to Statista — a business data database. Users aged 10-29 years-of-age accounted for 62 percent of the app’s users.
Aside from hosting funny videos and content creators, Tik Tok is a hub of political activity — demonstrated by the campaign to reserve seats to Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma rally to lower attendance, Forbes reported. Teens also organized a similar campaign at his New Hampshire rally, according to Forbes.
While Tik Tok is hardly the epicenter of political activity among teens, the lacking attendance at both rallys show it can still pack a punch.
Immoral data mining, privacy violations and the selling of data by companies is a problem plaguing all major corporations — and certainly needs to be addressed. People should not have to worry their personal information may be bought and sold to other corporations or governments.
Legislation protecting consumers’ right to privacy and regulation of companies operating in the U.S. are all ways to protect consumers — unilaterally banning an app isn’t one of them. Next time national security is at risk, Trump should at least have better reasons than Tik Tok.