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The TikTok Ban: Yes or No?

By Ariel Shavit and Margot Englander, Editors-in-Chief

Pro: Ariel

After a long school or work day, don’t you just want to be lazy and rest in your room? Don’t you just want to go on your phone and watch other people entertain you? The application of TikTok was created so you can connect to something greater in the world. When scrolling through our personalized algorithm, we find different people engaging in the world in ways in which we relate to and enjoy. Whether you’re hungry and want fun cooking ideas or you want to learn a new dance, TikTok is always there to help and teach. 

TikTok is a way to express your personality and opinions. In today’s day and age, many teenagers do not read news sources, like CNN or the New York Times. They need a way to be accurately educated on current events and voice their own opinions about what is going on. Now, you may think that TikTok is the worst way to receive news but hear me out. Most news sources, like ABC, CNN, Yahoo News, and many others, have verified TikTok accounts that post regularly breaking and current news. This popular application can educate people of all ages. Teenagers can now look at the news, but then, with a click of a button, switch to learning something else that is interesting to them. People may see the downsides of social media, but since TikTok is a huge platform with people ranging from 13 to late 90s, there is always positive content that can be found and inspire the younger generations.

Currently, the Chinese Communist Party controls TikTok but look at the future. If we start embracing the bright sides of TikTok and its educational value, then instead of many United States government officials wanting to ban it, they can find a way to work with an outside company to buy it from its owners and control it with safety features. More than 143 million monthly users of TikTok are from the United States, and the number is only increasing. This makes the United States the country that has the most users. It would be a great investment for the United States government to develop TikTok for the better without personal data being taken because then they would be able to use the platform in ways, like promoting policies and ideas they want the American people to think about.  

TikTok is the biggest platform today. It influences people and brings people closer together. You may live really far from a friend that you met a couple of years ago, but if you see them on your screen, not just in an Instagram post, but actually dancing or actively doing something, it makes you feel closer to them. Chloe Rosenthal, from 11th grade, says that it helps her “keep up with people’s lives.”  It is a way into someone's life and their hobbies. 

Technology is most definitely not disappearing in the near future, so we should embrace the transforming of society. We should use social media in positive ways to learn, influence, and teach our friends and family. Instead of being fearful of TikTok, find your favorite influencer or page you resonate with and learn something new to benefit the world.

Anti: Margot

Take a look at your TikTok feed. How much information can be gathered from a twenty minute scroll down your “for-you” page. It’s more than you might think. That “day-in-the-life-vlog” shows what an American home and school look like. “Outfit of the day” videos and huge hauls give a good idea of average household income and what American teens choose to wear and buy. 

While you might not think that your individual information matters, collective group information most certainly does to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the organization that currently controls Tiktok. Think about how many TikTok videos have been posted since its creation. In the past year. Month. Week. Day. Hour. Even minute. All of those videos of all different demographics give China so much information about life in America – information that can be directly used to harm the United States.  

This is a national security and warfare issue. TikTok collects additional information, such as search and browser history, facial ID, texts, locations, photos, and credit card information. This information can be used by China to locate family members of military personnel and blackmail them, push propaganda, commit fraud, and arrest dissidents that have fled China.  Even though government agencies (and the entire state of Montana!) have banned TikTok, it is still incredibly popular and is used by about 66% of teens in the US. 

TikTok – and other social media apps – can collect information about income, location, and political leanings all from your searches, likes, and follows. The worry is that China can use this information to run misinformation campaigns to sway American voters. You might be underestimating your ability to be coerced by ad campaigns. The truth is that every single person on the Internet is being coerced by digital marketing. Having access to our data makes it easier for foreign entities to create more and more effective propaganda. This propaganda does work, and every single person has been affected by it. Keep in mind that it can be as simple as a directed ad on Instagram for a clothing brand. 

The data from TikTok is also being used to develop better technology for the Chinese government. AI is famous for needing enormous amounts of data, and the information on TikTok is a gold mine of information. Obviously, the US would prefer to not aid other countries’ technology development. Another thing you may not associate TikTok with is targeted monitoring of key figures. It can seem awesome when your favorite celebrity or politician creates a TikTok account, however the TikToks that they post/like/repost can provide massive amounts of information to foreign governments. 

The most obvious is that they can use TikTok to push selected content. Your “for you page” can seem crafted to fit your preferences, but I’m sure you’ve noticed videos pop up that stand out from the rest of your feed. Having viewership control over the majority of a nation’s young population is extremely influential – it is easy to start a propaganda campaign and convince youth to be pro or anti certain issues. Just think about the millions of pro-Hamas videos that have been posted on TikTok! Have you ever spoken about something in the vicinity of your phone and noticed an ad or video come up later that relates to it? Through TikTok, China is able to access your microphone and record conversations even when you are not actively using the app. Terrifying, right? And instead of using it to push videos about cute puppies, they’re using it to identify people of importance in the US government and figuring out United States military plans. 

It is in the best interest of the American people and of national security that the US Congress forces the sale of TikTok. 


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