For a couple of years now, the United States government has been taking steps to limit the use of TikTok, a popular social media platform where people can post videos of themselves and/or react to other content. In the past few months, Washington has become increasingly insistent that TikTok must be banned in the entire United States.
TikTok has been banned for the past three years in the US Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine Corps. As of March 29, 2023, the US has banned the app from devices in federal agencies. Many other countries, including Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, have banned TikTok from their government-issued devices as well. And many colleges and universities have also blocked the app from their Wi-Fi, so students cannot access it while they are on campus.
All of these governments and institutions claim to be banning TikTok for the same reason: they are concerned about users’ information being used in a harmful, unethical way. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, and many people are worried that any information on TikTok could be stolen and used by the Chinese government. The US government is especially concerned about the location data that the app collects on its users.
However, TikTok is not the only app that collects location information and other data that could be used harmfully or unethically. Facebook, for example, stores similar data on its users. The only major difference between TikTok and Facebook is that Facebook is an American-owned company, whereas TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. It is important to recognize the blatant prejudice that the US government is displaying here; Washington is not concerned with potentially sensitive data being used by American companies, but it is concerned if the company is Chinese.
Apart from the question of user data security, TikTok can also be very addictive, and many people end up wasting hours of their day scrolling through various videos. “I sort of hope that TikTok is banned because I am so addicted to it…” said Lira Schwab ’26, an avid user of the app. This raises the question of screen time and social media in general: would we be happier, more productive people without TikTok?