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Talking TikTok
We are digital citizens
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We’ve known for years that social media platforms are collecting information and making money from it. These days, younger people have moved on from Facebook to other social media. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, reportedly has 150 million users in the United States and is one of the most-downloaded apps on the Google app store.

At last week’s Congressional hearings, CEO Shou Zi Chew said TikTok’s $1.5 billion “Project Texas,” which is currently underway but is not complete, is establishing a new subsidiary called TikTok U.S. Data Security that would ensure all U.S. data is secured and stored in U.S.-based servers run by Oracle. However, lawmakers from both parties were skeptical, according to a report in Politico.

From what we’ve seen of the Congressional hearings, it’s clear that this is a complicated issue and it doesn’t help that 1) tensions are high between the U.S. and China and 2) many of our representatives are older and don’t understand social media. According to BuzzFeed, Rep. Buddy Carter pushed a conspiracy theory that TikTok uses “the phone’s camera” to watch viewers’ eyes and boost videos that make their pupils dilate to the FYP “(recommended) For You Page.”

Then Rep. Dan Crenshaw asked Chew, “If the (Chinese Communist Party) tells ByteDance to turn over all data that TikTok has collected inside the U.S., do they have to do so according to Chinese law?” Chew reminded everyone that he’s Singaporean, not Chinese.

The issues with social media go beyond TikTok. The state of Utah just passed restrictions that will require minors to obtain the consent of a guardian to use social media platforms. It will also impose a curfew on the use of social media for minors, locking them out of their accounts between the hours of 10:30 p.m. at 6:30 a.m.

Congress recently implemented a TikTok ban on federal devices in the House of Representatives, and many states have already put into place some form of TikTok restrictions.

In February, Kansas lawmakers called for immediate action banning TikTok from use in state agencies, citing concerns over potential data breaches and Chinese spycraft, the Kansas Reflector reported. House Bill 2314 would prohibit TikTok use on any state-owned devices and state networks. Agencies that use TikTok would have to delete the account and stop using the platform, except for agencies using TikTok for law enforcement or cybersecurity investigations.

Listening to a debate last Sunday on Meet the Press, there are concerns about whether social media are addictive and toxic to young minds. There is even debate as to whether we are a nation of addicts, or are appearing so to China.

From crypto-currencies to cyber-security, our brave new digital world presents new opportunities for good and evil. Soon all K-12 schools will need to add a Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Our kids all use iPads or Chromebooks and must be taught about cyberbullying, online safety, privacy and media literacy. Maybe the rest of us also need a crash course.