CSotD: TikTok Timeout?

I gather, from the flood of cartoons on the topic, that I’m the only person in America who doesn’t watch TikTok. It’s not that I don’t watch TikTok, but I don’t watch many videos, which I would say has something to do with being ADD except I know people with ADD who find short videos perfect for their short attention spans.

Anyway, in case you somehow missed it, the House voted to force the Chinese government to divest itself of TikTok or it would be illegal for app stores here to make it available. The bill still has to clear the Senate but President Biden has said he’ll sign it if it reaches his desk. We’ll see.

Matt Davies takes a relatively common approach to the kerfuffle, noting that, if TikTok is harvesting information about us, it’s not alone.

He’s right, though I’ve seen no evidence that Alexa is collecting data on me beyond what I might ask her about, which is mostly the weather or to play my local PBS station. I was surprised when I asked her to put on some music and she suggested Charlie Parker, but I’d had her play a lot of 30s and 40s swing, so she wasn’t reading my mind.

There’s not much conversation for her to eavesdrop on around here, either, but I’m not flooded with advertisements for doggy cookies, car rides or going for a walk.

Bill Bramhall is less specific than Davies, which is more effective because he avoids discussion of actual security leaks and makes the overall point that we’re under a fair amount of surveillance.

Once you abandon the particulars, it’s pretty obvious that, whether it’s Big Brother or Big Business, someone is watching.

That opens things up to my overall privacy theory which is that the more they gather, the less they can process.

Granted, computers can sort faster today than back in the ’60s when my friends and I were under more analog surveillance, but I still suspect that the gummint has trouble separating, say, the Lost Ark from what I bought at Price Chopper yesterday.

OTOH, it’s true that the nail that stands up gets hammered and if someone decides you need to be looked into, they can certainly do that.

I switched insurance companies a few months ago and all I had to do was input my name and address and up popped my current car and its policy. Very handy, but also a good demonstration of how quickly they can find something they want to find.

The solution is not to be the nail that stands up, but that cowardly response falls under the category of “That’s what they want.”

It’s also under the category of “Even paranoid people have some enemies.”

Joe Heller notes that nobody is really proposing to make TikTok go away, simply to get it out of the hands of the Chinese government. He’s right about the impact of the on-line world on young people, and that having someone else luring them in with clickable content isn’t an improvement.

That’s not the same problem as allowing an authoritarian government not only to collect data on us but to insinuate itself into our digital infrastructure. It may not matter what little Jennifer thinks of Taylor Swift, but we’re also looking into how Chinese-built cranes can be collecting data, and the wider the net being cast, the greater the chaos if they decide to weaponize their digital presence.

Which doesn’t quite answer Bramhall and Davies on the topic of data gathering, except that, if we don’t trust our own government more than we trust Beijing, TikTok isn’t our biggest problem.

It seems reasonable to at least prioritize the risks, which makes distrusting the Chinese government a defensible choice.

Adam Zyglis indulges in a degree of whataboutism, suggesting that climate change is a bigger problem than data security. On surface, it’s an unfair point, because it’s not an either/or proposition and we can address both issues.

But he makes his point by labeling that hand as “GOP” because Republicans have led this drive against TikTok while simultaneously both blocking attempts to address climate change and spreading disinformation about it.

I think, however, that Rob Rogers (Tinyview) has a sharper focus on the priorities issue, because guns are not only a more immediate risk to our kids — they’re the leading cause of death among children — but turning climate issues around is a long-term, difficult process, while the availability of guns could be addressed with legislation more immediately and efficiently if not perfectly.

We know what “the perfect” is the enemy of.

Kal Kallaugher pooh-poohs the potential impact of TikTok, suggesting that the things we fear it doing are the same things that render it ineffective. He’s being sarcastic, but he’s right that TikTok is only one piece of the issue of kids being affected by time spent online.

But while the overall issue is a bigger problem than any specific aspect of it, there’s a real danger of letting the scale of the problem discourage us from dealing with it at all. As the old joke goes, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Restricting the digital brainwashing to that done by our own people isn’t a great solution, but it’s at least a helpful start.

Jimmy Margulies (KFS) offers an interesting commentary, because there’s an element at first glance of “Those Darned Kids,” but the fact is that young people do read books and the market for young readers is one of publishing’s bright spots.

What Margulies is saying is not that kids won’t read books but that they can’t, that the same bluenoses who fret over what they see on line are pulling books out of libraries to control what kids get to read.

But be of good cheer, because the book-burners are (A) losing power and (B) only a part of a much larger mass of people concerned over online content.

Plus, take a look at what kids are reading: Dystopian novels about resisting tyranny.

If those books aren’t allowed on library shelves, they’ll be tucked under mattresses.

Meanwhile, I got a laff out of Andy Marlette (Creators)‘s vision: Let the kids see who’s using TikTok and they’ll wander away on their own.

3 thoughts on “CSotD: TikTok Timeout?

  1. This may be an example of siloing, on the part of the author as much as myself. I’m pushing 40, my parents are in their 60s. They had a friend come to visit. Super Trumpy guy. He said something about distrusting the mainstream media, and how he gets all his news from… TikTok… I also do not use much in the way of social media, despite having started college the same year Facebook hit the ground and thus being the exact vanguard age for the genre. I had no idea TikTok had news. Turns out, it’s a Big Deal among the red hat crowd for their daily cuppa disinformation. Point being it’s not just the youth using it. There’s a fairly significant audience among the older, and even more maleably minded. I don’t know if bringing it under American control would be a good thing or a bad thing either… I guess that would depend on who it is that takes control, and their policies and enforcement of propoganda and other forms of misinformation.

  2. What a blast from the past! Songs from Hair have been running around my head from the past couple of weeks, especially this one. Love it! Thanks for sharing.

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