June 25, 2020 | IFA Staff
TikTok is stoking the protest crowds and stealing your information. Wait, what?
The number two downloaded free app, with 37 million users in the United States (800 million worldwide) and an expected growth of more than 20% this year, is challenging Facebook and Twitter as a source of information for users. It’s TikTok and it has captured the attention of young people, who are its main users. TikTok hosts all kinds of short video clips (one minute or less), many humorous, many musically-based, some live-action, but interestingly, has also become the news source of choice for these Gen Z (or younger) users. It has also become the way that groups like Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other activist groups rally their troops and gather a crowd.
Although TikTok was not originally designed to be a news source, recent events surrounding the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, have created many viral stars on TikTok and other users who have taken to this app to report videos of themselves or post video coverage at protests, riots, and raids. The majority of individuals have begun to use their platforms on TikTok to share their personal thoughts about racism and the #BLM movement.
One of the primary ways the George Floyd video began circulating was through TikTok users sharing the video through the app. In fact, the demographic this app targets has now begun looking to this app as their news source. One minute clips are now providing information that users trust and share. Is this citizen journalism or creating sensational viral videos that may not tell the full story in a one-minute clip? Below is a trending TikTok video with over one million views surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. CAUTION: These videos may be difficult to watch and contain profanity.
TikTok teens were mobilized by liberal activist Maryjo Laupp, known as TikTok Granny to order Trump Tulsa rally tickets. They had no intention of attending–they wanted to overinflate the anticipated crowd size so that the actual event would appear to be poorly attended. IFA reported on this earlier this week.
Another reason for concern, in addition to the viral use of TikTok in today’s culture, and the obvious detrimental result of using one-minute clips for a news source, is that TikTok is the creation of communist China company ByteDance and is legally bound to share information with the communist Chinese government.
Some have raised concerns about TikTok censorship of information that is negative about certain issues pertaining to China, such as the Uigher re-education camps and organ harvesting. But there is a bigger issue. Through the TikTok app, communist China has access to data on users and their profiles, and even poses a national security threat. Senator Josh Hawley and Senator Rick Scott have introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using the TikTok app on their government-issued phones due to very real concerns about spying. Senator Hawley explains, “TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing. As many of our federal agencies have already recognized, TikTok is a major security risk to the United States, and it has no place on government devices.”
Beyond the concern about communist China having access to American intel, spying on everyday Americans should be a concern to us all as well. “I have nothing to hide,” or “They won’t find anything interesting in my profile,” are two responses you may be thinking when hearing that China may be spying on average Americans like you, your children, or your grandchildren on TikTok. But the data they are scooping up from you includes tracking your location, recording your online activity, storing your identifiable personal data, and more. Could it be that the app was even created to be a trojan horse for spying on Americans and its own Chinese citizens? And what are the ramifications of the prevalent use of this app among youth in the U.S. and around the world?
Pray about the influence this app has in our nation. Share your experiences with TikTok, or how you are praying.
(Contributing to this article are Abby Joy, IFA Media Content Developer and Kris Kubal, IFA Director of Strategic Resources and Engagement.)