TikTok under political fire

MADDISON LUEBKE
COPY EDITOR

PHOTO BY MORGAN GUST

Disclaimer: The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Almanian or Alma College.

Over the course of this summer, we saw a new wave of social media influence take over the lives of young people. With nothing else to do, our phones became the only form of social interaction most young people had. TikTok, an already popular video creation app, lead the pack as it gained popularity over the past few months.

Whenever an app becomes so integrated into how we communicate, it has the capability to be weaponized as a political force. TikTok uses interest groups and watch times to evaluate what kind of content people like, so it was easy for political activists and popular figures to find the community that resonated with their message.

With this kind of algorithm, TikTok has created a platform of hyper-personalized media consumption. This personalization for the user shows that they have the information accessible to be able to figure out information about focus groups across the globe.

TikTok poses an interesting threat to the government, and more specifically this presidential regime. Trump’s campaign was blatantly anti-China, and TikTok was created by the Chinese media company Bytedance.

Some claim that TikTok is stealing U.S. Citizen information and selling it to foreign governments. As a college student with minimal knowledge of politics and no knowledge of data analytics, I can’t claim to know how all of this works; however, it is important to know that TikTok isn’t the only part of our lives that can be tracked.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube: all of these apps for your phone have capabilities of tracking what you interact with. All of our devices we depend on—especially in an environment of all online classes—are manufactured and programmed in Asian countries.

Even at home in the United States, as soon as a child is born, they are given a birth certificate and a social security number— two things that are used by people for the rest of their lives.

In a recent interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren, Donald Trump said that banning TikTok in the United States was one of many options the country could take to “punish” China for the coronavirus. Banning an app in order to blame an entire country for a global pandemic that is almost under control in all countries besides the United States seems to be a reelection move if I had ever heard one.

In the age of new media, we plaster our faces, our birthday’s and our private information on the internet on a daily basis. It is an active decision on our part to participate in these online mediums; however, banning the internet as a political move goes against the United States past policy on internet censorship.

The United States has always been a country that pushes for freedom of information. We don’t want the government to be able to censor what news were seeing. We are a democracy that believes all of the people here have a right to know.

If Trump bans TikTok, it sets us down a path of governmental restriction of media consumption. They could make listening to non-American musicians’ illegal. They could ban foreign films. We would be stuck in a media bubble made up of exactly what our government wants us to see—blind to the outside world.

I make TikToks, not to be famous, but to have a creative outlet when all of my other forms of creativity have been cancelled. With coronavirus, we are living in a world where social media interaction may be the only interaction.

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