Is TikTok bad for us? Can something so wildly popular secretly be a scourge on US-based humanity? It's possible, but the evidence remains low. That's not stopping a trio of US congresspeople from calling for an outright ban.
It's mostly show for now, though. The US government, including the current Biden administration, has been looking into TikTok's US operations and their relations with its China-based parent ByteDance for years. In the meantime, TikTok US has scrambled to reassure officials that it's doing all it can to firewall US data from Chinese officials. Lately, it's been in the process of moving all its US data to Oracle's servers.
I do not believe TikTok is out to harm US consumers, but I'm glad officials are looking out for us. But when it comes to a social platform that may be doing actual harm in real time to actual Americans, I'm not noticing much action.
You see, I can't look at the potential legislative action on TikTok, which has millions of very enthusiastic and, it appears, largely happy users, and wonder about the growing dumpster fire that is current Twitter. It, too, has millions of users but, increasingly, there's little happiness to be found on the platform.
It's been almost two months of roil since Elon Musk took the reins over at Twitter. Granted, Twitter needed a shakeup. It was not making enough money, growth was stagnating, and content moderation felt, at times, haphazard. Musk, though, came in and recklessly cut the staff in half and then through a series of draconian measures forced out thousands more, putting the stability of the platform in question. Musk often claimed he wanted Twitter to be a true free speech haven and a digital town square but his recent focus has been on bringing back fringe accounts, attacking enemies, and releasing internal documents.
Twitter's power to move consensus is on the wane, but there is a destabilizing effect. The CEO of a major tech company, and one of the most followed people on the platform, now happily trades in conspiracy theories and makes statements that officials have acknowledged put people in real danger.
So, sure, let's keep investigating TikTok. China absolutely wants into our most sensitive infrastructure and other critical systems. Do they want to do it through people who spend huge chunks of their day perfecting TikTok dances? I don't know.
What I do know though is that a pillar of the tech community, something that served as an important community and communication platform is imploding. As it flames out, Twitter is shooting sparks in all directions. Some might just catch fire and cause real harm.
Maybe we should be investigating that, too.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.