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Consenting adults have the right to let the Chinese Communist Party spy on them
The U.S. government has no power to ban TikTok or any other social media app
I grew up in a time before everyone had a computer in their house, let alone a cell phone in their pocket, and certainly a time before everybody had accounts on multiple social media platforms that they were more likely to be looking at than not at any given moment. And after having used these various platforms since I was a teenager into adulthood, I’ve concluded that these platforms are not good for people’s mental health, and have decided that I would like to be associated with as few of them as possible. I have no accounts on Facebook or Instagram, I’m not on Pinterest or Tumblr, and I maintain a love-hate relationship with Twitter (Which I’ve tried and failed to quit several times, though currently being forced to use the Twitter app instead of Tweetbot might finally do it). There may be a rogue MySpace page out there in the void somewhere, but who would even care to look?
As such, I’ve never created an account on TikTok, the fastest growing social media platform in the United States today and for the last several years. No offense to my friends who are exasperated with my intransigence on the subject, but I’ve felt like I’m too old to be on TikTok since I became aware of its existence. In TikTok’s, and my friends’, defense, I had zero interest in Vine when that was a thing either and I was obviously younger then; the short-form video concept just doesn’t appeal to me.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, that almost certainly answers to the ruling Communist regime in that country, and there are concerns that the Chinese government has access to the data of Americans who use the app.
And in that vein, some in the U.S. Congress want to outright ban TikTok from being available for Americans to use. From The Hill:
A bill to ban the video-sharing app TikTok from being downloaded on U.S. devices was introduced in Congress Wednesday by Republicans Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.).
The proposal stems from allegations raised by Hawley, Buck and other lawmakers, most of them Republicans, that the Chinese-based app poses national security risks. TikTok has denied those allegations, especially amid rising tensions with the federal and state governments.
On the one hand, the U.S. government collects as much data on everybody on the planet including on American citizens, which we know thanks to Edward Snowden, and used its influence over social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to censor the views of Americans to help get Joe Biden elected president and to control the narrative over COVID-19 among other things. So it’s not as if these people have a leg to stand on to complain about other governments trying to do the same thing. On the other hand, however, I don’t even want the United States government to have any data on me, so why would I want the Chinese government to have any data on me?
But there’s a difference between me making that decision for myself, and other people making that decision for me.
Given the probable security risks, it may make sense for government and military officials to be prohibited from using the app, but banning American citizens from being able to download the app and American companies from doing business with TikTok/ByteDance is certainly unconstitutional regardless of how you might feel about TikTok itself, the Chinese government, or governments, foreign or domestic, endlessly stealing social media data from users of any platform. If people want to use TikTok despite knowing that the Chinese government is likely collecting data on them then that’s their business—adults can make their own decisions about what social media platforms they and their children will use. No branch of the United States government has the power or the right to take that decision away from anybody. I’ve chosen not to use TikTok and many other platforms, but that is my personal decision and other people have the right to make different decisions.
And this is not some weird defense of the Chinese government spying on Americans either; I’m not saying that it’s fine that the Chinese government does this just because we’re aware that it’s probably happening. The Chinese government is a tyrannical regime with no right to even exist, let alone the right to steal the data of people in other countries using an app that just so happened to be developed by a Chinese company. But the only answer in a free society is to give the people as much information on the subject as you can and let them make their own individual decisions based on that information, it’s not to take away the rights and liberties of Americans to decide for themselves what social media platforms they can download onto their phones. And this is especially true when the American regime is just as guilty of violating the privacy rights of American citizens as the Chinese regime is, if not more so.