Why does the government want to ban TikTok?

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TikTok is currently in the process of being banned in the United States of America.  TikTok, which was combined with Musical.ly by their parent company ByteDance in August of 2018, is one of the biggest social media platforms teenagers use today. On TikTok, you can upload up to 10 minute videos or pictures that show your front and back camera, send direct messages or videos, livestream, and many other things. To create an account, you must give your birthday, name and phone number.  When you create an account you also must create a username and password. TikTok says, “We are committed to maintaining your trust, and while TikTok does not sell your personal information or share your personal information with third parties for purposes of cross-context behavioral advertising where restricted by applicable law, we want you to understand when and with whom we may share the Information We Collect for business purposes.” This statement can be interpreted in different ways, which concerns many government officials as well as many users of TikTok.  

One should be educated about what information TikTok users are really giving away, especially if they use the app.  The information TikTok collects includes, but is not limited to, the following: User-generated content, including comments, location, photographs, live streams, audio recordings, videos, text, hashtags, and virtual item videos that you choose to create with or upload to the platform; Messages, which include information you provide when you compose, send, or receive messages through the platform’s messaging functionalities; Purchase information, including payment card numbers or other third-party payment information (such as PayPal) where required for the purpose of payment, transaction history and billing and shipping address; Your phone and social network contacts, with your permission. “If you choose to find other users through your phone contacts, we will access and collect information such as names, phone numbers, and email addresses, and match that information against existing users of the platform.” 

This information could be used against someone in court.  When creating an account for apps or websites, most people just agree to everything without reading what they are agreeing to. Although most Terms of Uses and Privacy Policies are wordy and hard to read, they contain very crucial and useful material. One should really know what they are conforming to before giving the-go-ahead. For example, if a user chooses to initiate information sharing with a third-party platform, or chooses to paste content from the clipboard onto the Platform, TikTok accesses this information stored in their clipboard in order to fulfill your request. Another example could be if a user were to sue TikTok for having access to their credit card information.  The user consented to it by signing the Privacy Policy, therefore they would not win the court case.

Many students at Washington High School use the app and have interesting takes on the situation with TikTok and the government. Isabela Serrano, a sophomore at Washington High School, says, “If TikTok were to get banned, I would probably just go to Instagram Reels, but I know that Instagram has access to even more of my information.”  Many students have Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat accounts which also use their information for other uses.  “TikTok is a place where I connect with a lot of my friends and it’s the app I scroll through when I am bored,” says Mariah Covarrubius, a 9th grader.  “If TikTok got banned, I would fall off with a lot of my friends and wouldn’t talk to as many people.” 

Banning TikTok raises a set of concerns separate from those associated with banning certain equipment from telecommunications infrastructure. Unlike the bans on equipment, the banning of an app removes an opportunity for communication and expression for millions of Americans users.  TikTok bans dramatically expand the government’s ability to control what apps and technologies Americans can choose to use to communicate. Further, bans affect people that use the app in many different ways.

Rylee Milnes is a freshman at Washington High School. She grew up in Fremont, California and this is her first year at the Hatchet. Rylee is very social and likes to interview people. Rylee's hobbies include, skating, surfing, snowboarding and any other outdoor activity. Rylee is the head captain of Washington’s JV cheerleading team, while healing from knee surgery. This recovery prevents her from playing sports that she enjoys such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, and softball, but is determined to get back at it. Rylee plans on getting a degree in kinesiology to become a physical therapist.

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