Tik Tok is a Dangerous Place

Kiersten Hacker, Editor

Tik Tok hit the internet in 2017 and has dominated the recent social media scene for Gen-Z with its some half a billion active users. The app consists of short videos lasting 15 to 60 seconds, if they’re strung together. Creators make comedic videos, dancing videos, or videos to their own audio, many turning into memes or compilations on other social media apps. Certain songs, sounds, and dances have become part of everyday pop culture for teens who get lost for hours in their scrolling. Young people are reeled into the entertaining videos, describing it as “addicting” and claiming that it serves as a distraction from productivity. Many continue to watch because it reminds them of Vine, the discontinued app of hilarious 6-second looping videos. While these videos are fun to make and watch, the platform on which the craze is spreading is under a national security investigation by the United States Government. Despite this, use of the app is still growing.

What most users are unaware of is that ByteDance, the parent company of Tik Tok, is a Chinese owned company based in Beijing for markets outside of China. The strange algorithms that calculate which videos to recommend and which will be seen on the “for you page” and the deletion of certain videos addressing social issues can be linked to TikTok’s roots.  One user began posting videos voicing social awareness, specifically addressing the oppression of Muslims in China, which proceeded to be mysteriously deleted by the app. Bytedance and Tik Tok have guidelines limiting or banning posts containing criticisms of the Chinese government, and highly controversial topics such as religious sects, separatism, and protests in Hong Kong. When a user does not abide by these guidelines, their videos are either deleted or set to private where only the creator of the video can see it. This has brought many people to question the app for its censorship, especially American users who exercise free speech. Bytedance has responded claiming that it will adjust its settings and rules for American people who possess different freedoms than people under the Chinese government. 

Censorship on TikTok is dangerous, but the app is also dangerous for its data mining. Nothing is private on the internet, but teens tend to forget that when it comes to the addicting app. While data mining is not uncommon on all internet platforms and sites, it still poses a threat to private security as well as our democracy. Because Americans have the right to free speech, it is natural to speak our minds and relay exactly what we’re feeling, but on an app with connections to a Communist government, those same liberties do not exist. There is a growing concern amongst media executives that Tik Tok is not just filled with simple videos, but it’s interests are twisted. Government officials are already wary of foreign media companies and the possibility for them to breech information that could threaten national security and the economy. It was found that ByteDance mines data, stores it in Chinese databases, and sells it to the Chinese government, which raises the concern that forgein companies could breech large amounts of private data. Social media has many more layers than the fun on the surface level.