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  • Writer's picturePeter DiSilvio

States Attorneys General Go After TikTok

Per CBS, a coalition of several state attorneys general including California, Florida, and Kentucky has come together to investigate and possibly prosecute TikTok for its detrimental effects on users.

The Dangers of TikTok

We've discussed before the dangers of TikTok. To summarize, TikTok shares your data on a pretty consistent basis with 14 different URL's, 13 of which are third parties that no one is quite sure of the identities of outside of TikTok itself. The perils poses by this sharing of data are as varies as they are terrifying.

For example, Australian Security Intelligence Organization recently reported that social media has become a "hunting ground" for foreign powers looking to recruit and coerce spies. Once these hostile entities have build up enough information about a person they can determine how to best manipulate them. Perhaps you have been googling debt consolidations so now the Russians know you are in need of money. Perhaps you always share political content of a certain kind so now Iran knows what to post in order to effect your voting. Perhaps you are cheating on your husband and now, after several tawdry emails, China has the leverage to get you to share business or state secrets.

China is the most nefarious when it comes to using technology against citizens and foreigners alike and , given their strong ties to TikTok, the Country that deserves the most attention. China recently unveiled a "social credit system" which aims to monitor and control their citizens financial, social, moral, and political behavior [1]. China also use the help and expertise of American scientists to create DNA profiles of people that have been used in their political crackdowns on what they consider to be undesirable and disloyal groups [2]. In October of 2021 Western intelligence agencies said that China was contacting thousands of foreign citizens, many on the professional social network LinkedIn, with the intent of co-opting and controlling them [3].

TikTok And Mental Health

The attorneys general of several states have launched a nationwide investigation into whether TikTok is designing, operating, and promoting its social media platform to children, teens, and young adults in a manner that causes or exacerbates physical and mental health harms. Attorneys general nationwide are examining whether the company violated state consumer protection laws and put the public at risk [4].

Algorithms in general are incredibly dangerous. They allow companies to monitor and manipulate users, feeding them information and stimuli that will keep them on a site longer basically making them addicted. To understand just how powerful this technology is look no further than the Facebook Mood Experiment whereby Facebook fed users positive or negative stories, using their algorithms, to see if they could uplift or depress patrons of the site [5]. Now there is a fear that TikTok is doing something similar, whether they know it or not, where they are negatively impacting younger users.

"TikTok spokesperson Ben Rathe told The Verge that the company “appreciate[s] that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” and looks forward to “providing information on the many safety and privacy protections” it has for teens" [6].

It will probably take sometime before any of the investigations into TikTok reveal anything of substance. In the meantime the site could be harming users as we speak. For this reason and the many others discussed, TikTok should probably be avoided.



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