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TikTok Bans: The New Censorship?

TikTok is an application taking the world by storm. With videos focused on a variety of topics, such as #CleaningTok, #Self-Care, and dance challenges, anyone’s interests can be defined in a hashtag for millions of people to see. Influencers have been launched to stardom with 30-second to 1-minute clips and others have launched music careers. Informational campaigns, such as the campaign where K-pop fans disrupted a Covid-era Trump rally in 2020, also have allowed for advocacy to be mobilized beginning with social media. 


To contrast, concerns regarding disinformation and fact checking also are characteristic traits of TikTok media. Information surrounding local and international topics is now widely accessible. Yet, this information may do more harm than good for some.


Back in Feb., the White House announced that the application, TikTok, would no longer be allowed on devices owned by government employees involved in the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State to be instituted during the month of March. In particular, devices distributed by the government for privacy reasons will not allow the application. The ban works by requiring all officials to delete the application. Otherwise, the phone’s capabilities can make the application nonfunctional through special software intended to neutralize the application. This announcement follows legislation passed by congress, the “No Tiktok on Government Devices Act”. However, exceptions exist to the rule: promotion of national security, law enforcement, and research.


Cybersecurity and privacy are at the top of the list for bans. The decision to ban Tiktok follows the Canadian government’s ban. Canada did not issue reasons for banning the app. However, it did nod to the European Union ban in early Feb. The European Union cited cybersecurity threats and increasing Western-Eastern relations. Another instance includes tension regarding the Ukraine-Russia war where China is perceived to help Russia. 


In the United States, a similar sentiment has resonated regarding TikTok for a while. FBI director, Christopher Wray, stated that the Chinese government could leverage its wide influence for “influence operations”. This follows how both the Biden administration and the Chinese government – specifically in Beijing –  have facilitated technology advancements. The significance is that Tiktok has a total of 100 million users in the US, which has a population of over 334 million. To compare, the European Union totals 125 million users with a population of nearly 448 million


The cybersecurity concerns emerge following the internal investigation completed by TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance. It found that information on two reporters in Summer of 2022 was illegally collected illegally that included IP addresses and other important information. This concern soon spread considering that almost one in 3 Americans use Tiktok.

The influence of Tiktok also has concerned institutions within higher education. One example includes Auburn which banned TikTok in Jan. However, this ban highlighted the censorship concerns felt by organizations and social groups on campus. Additionally, it limited outreach and inhibited bonding activities between members of the community. The ban functioned by not allowing TikTok on-campus wifi, but students are still able to access the application using their own private data. As a result, the ban has resulted in alternative measures to access the app.


Edited by: Maria Cornejo

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Tags: #government #security #international #tiktok


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