Delete, Delete, Delete… Ban?
By Shinedip Kundlas
Images provided by Tech Crunch
For the past several years, the social media app, TikTok has taken over the globe with its popularity. For many, TikTok seems like a harmless app, where one can create content about music, makeup, books, college, and much more. However, TikTok is viewed by many policymakers as a symbol of totalitarianism and illegal surveillance. Gen Z's favorite social media service is in danger because of its parent company Byte Dance’s relationships with the Chinese government - and what happens next could have even broader effects. One solution is to completely ban the app, or to delete it off your phones. My question is, what good would that do?
If a ban on the social media app could be enacted, some may argue that it would solve our national security concerns. This ban, however, could ultimately put our national security at risk and would also sidestep a broader issue — the fact that our nation has not addressed the massive amount of data we collect about ourselves digitally, especially when that information could be misused by external adversaries. There are some valid concerns that TikTok may collect personal information from U.S. citizens. There was a recent report by Forbes about a plan to target journalists who have reported critically on the Chinese regime's ties with the company. In an internal investigation, TikTok corroborated all allegations and terminated all involved. Congress was right to ban the installation of TikTok on federally issued devices because the app could target users with special power, knowledge, or both. TikTok collects a lot of information about its users, such as their political inclinations, their locations, and likes and dislikes; however, it’s important to understand that anyone can buy such information on the public marketplace for consumer data or get it from elsewhere. Biographical data is consistently scoured from social media by intelligence agencies without owning TikTok and other social media platforms. While TikTok presents online privacy risks to Americans, it is not the first or most excessive one – and it’s improbable that outlawing or banning TikTok will solve the issue.
Other nations won't see TikTok's banning as notably different from what China has done to its citizens by banning it under the same grounds. All Google products, Twitter accounts, and other apps are prohibited in China for its own citizens. It is more important to recognize the symbolic value of this irregularity than consider it unfair: The US triumphs when it demonstrates to the globe that it is a free and democratic nation. It is unclear whether the federal government can even impose a ban on the use of significant communications platforms or control online content to prevent disinformation under the First Amendment. I think the issue with banning TikTok ties back to the fact that many Americans would feel like banning the app infringes upon their rights.
I believe that TikTok has its advantages and disadvantages. Our generation is growing up in the world of social media and is being influenced by these apps. However, I also think it is crucial to understand that at the end of the day, it is an individual’s choice to decide if they would like to delete TikTok. From a very young age we are taught that we have the right to certain freedoms: speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. The U.S government does not have the ability to ban speech, and posting on TikTok is protected by the First Amendment since it’s a form of speech. This makes banning TikTok not an easy option. Letting the individual decide whether they would like to keep or delete the app would be the appropriate action.