Possible TikTok ban scares creators, confuses teens

NatalieCusick

TikTok: the name of one of the world’s most popular apps today and the sound of the time running out on its life in the United States. On Aug. 6, Trump issued an executive order giving TikTok 45 days to be bought by an American company before it would be banned in the US. That 45- day clock ran out on Sept. 20.

When the world woke up that day, millions expected to kiss the beloved app goodbye. TikTok’s proposed deal with Microsoft had been shut down and Trump denied support of a deal with Oracle and Walmart. 

Hours before TikTok was to be banned, Trump approved TikTok’s deal with Oracle and Walmart. Headquarters will now be in the United States, and all data will be on Oracle’s cloud platform, according to CNN. 

TikTok is the first app of its size and reach to be put in question by the United States government. With more than 100 million users in the United States and billions of downloads, this action caused a lot of controversy, speculation, and opinion.

For the 32.5 percent of U.S. users that are between the ages of 10 to 19, the idea of banning TikTok may seem ridiculous. To most elected officials, on the other hand, it is a necessity. The main assumption surrounding the possible TikTok ban is that “China is trying to steal our data,” but it is a lot more complicated than that. 

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet company. Under Chinese laws, their government has access to any company’s servers, which gives them access to the “data” collected by TikTok. Elected officials, including the United States President, believe that this poses a national security threat. 

“I would say TikTok is a lesser threat, but I think that the president and others in the administration still group TikTok in with the Chinese communications Infrastructure. The more it’s used in the U.S., the more the Chinese intelligence agencies can get access to our communications network,” Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon said.

But what is this “data” in question? According to the Marian girls who were surveyed, it could range from anything such as “Charli D’amelio’s drafts,” “what we like to watch” to “our names and faces.” According to TikTok’s US privacy policy, TikTok has access to all private messages on the app, your country, internet address, and device type. With further permission, it obtains your exact location, contacts, phone number, and age. 

“It could be more than that. If you download their software, how do you know that the Chinese isn’t using this as a back door to get into all your other stuff on your phone or computer?” said Bacon. “That’s what they’re saying they can do overtly, but what they can do covertly is the real issue.”

Since the US government is strongly against the idea of another country collecting its citizens’ personal information, it raises a question of hypocrisy for many U.S. citizens.

“After 9/11, the American government started mining user data from social media and accounts as a counter terrorism measure. This wasn’t supposed to be permanent, but it’s still continued to this day, and aside from certain instances like online safety presentations, I feel like it isn’t addressed that much,” senior Emily Beyer explains. 

She is referring to the Patriot Act, which is the overarching legislation that gives the U.S. government permission to the surveillance and search of citizens’ Internet information, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It is my personal opinion is that the idea that we should all be concerned about a Chinese social media company mining our data but not our own government doing the same thing is xenophobic and hypocritical. We should still obviously be aware and cautious about TikTok taking our information, but we also need to start addressing how that same issue is being perpetuated by our own government,” Beyer said.

Another question many have been asking of the government is, “Is this constitutional?” The order was issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This gives the President the ability to control commerce with other countries when it poses a threat to the U.S.

Though TikTok has made many efforts to be US- dominated, such as moving its servers to the US, hiring US executives, and taking it off of China’s app store, Trump was not comfortable with the kind of access that the Chinese government still legally had access to. This will change as soon as the deal with ByteDance, Oracle and Walmart is finalized and put into action.

For many Marian girls, Sept. 20 was a day of relief. “I’d be sad if it was banned. How else am I supposed to spend my free time?” freshman Chizora Okolo said.

“I don’t think it should be banned because so many people love it, and it’s so much fun to be on,” sophomore McKayla Mandolfo said. She spends hours on TikTok daily, and enjoys the comedy genre on the app. 

Out of the 200 students who answered the survey, 60 percent did not think TikTok would be banned. When asked if it should be banned, 72.5 percent of girls still answered no. The many Marian girls who enjoy TikTok and spend countless hours on the app have Oracle and Walmart to thank for their continued entertainment.

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