While many have called for the banning of TikTok because of security risks along with the Chinese-owned platform posing a detriment to societal well-being, few have called out how the communist nation’s utilization of the software benefits its own youth.
Across the United States, many, including government bodies and school systems, have either instituted or proposed rules to keep the social media platform off their grounds and, more importantly, off the devices of those who frequent them. Outside of data collection dangers, TikTok’s machine-learning algorithm has kept users mindlessly scrolling for hours as targeted content is pumped in to promote precisely that outcome.
The same is not true of Beijing-based parent company Bytedance’s domestic-exclusive counterpart Douyin, which former Air Force and Space Force Chief Software Officer Nicholas Chaillan explained to the New York Post uses the same technology toward the betterment of Chinese people.
“The algorithm is vastly different, promoting science, educational and historical content in China while making our citizens watch stupid dance videos with the main goal of making us imbeciles,” he offered and added, “TikTok is potentially the most powerful weapon of mass manipulation and misinformation ever created by the CCP. It’s a dream come true for them.”
Along with promoting enriching content, Douyin was said to have built-in features to protect the most vulnerable users, the young, from many of the psychological harms documented in still-developing minds. This included a mandatory “teenage mode” for those under the age of 14 years old that prohibits access to less than 40 minutes a day between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. with 5-second delays peppered in to break up mindless scrolling.
That is less than half the time the average youth spends on the platform which has been shown to be around 90 minutes outside of the communist nation.
“TikTok’s algorithm behind the For You page is known for being particularly sticky, so once kids start watching videos they are served up a constant stream,” Jean Twenge, an “iGen” author, professor, and psychologist told the Post. “The contrast between the U.S. and Chinese versions is a great example of why the US needs more regulation around social media, especially for kids.”
In addition to life-threatening dangers of absurd viral challenges on the platform like the “blackout challenge,” where users record themselves using household items for self-strangulation to pass out, and the consumption of “sleepy chicken,” a recipe that calls for cooking poultry in NyQuil or similar cough and cold medications, both presenting serious dangers including the death of a 10-year-old, TikTok also presents a risk of impacting the American government.
TikTok escapes responsibility for death of 10-year-old victim of ‘blackout challenge’ https://t.co/orlwViWp17
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) October 28, 2022
‘I’m ready for the asteroid’: Searches for NyQuil chicken recipe skyrocket after FDA warning https://t.co/unK770sHzm
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) September 24, 2022
“TikTok is now one of the leading advertising platforms in the US and Europe, giving full control to the CCP to what content gets promoted and what sticks. That is probably enough to sway future elections,” Chaillan warned.
His sentiment was echoed by NYU Stern marketing professor Scott Galloway who expressed, “If I were a member of the CCP and I saw that we had a vested interest in diminishing America’s standing strategically in the world … I would just take my thumb and very elegantly and insidiously put it on the scale of content that reflects America in a bad light. I think that they’re doing this right now — they’d be stupid not to do it.”
As it stands, a Google study found that 40 percent of Generation Z utilizes platforms like TikTok and Instagram as their go-to search engine, a reality that led Chaillan to conclude, “We should have banned it already … [China] would never have let it become that big to begin with.”
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