In an increasingly uncertain world, the emergence of TikTok has served as an escape mechanism for millions of people around the world. The light-hearted entertainment it provides us with helped us to survive the stress of Covid-19 lockdown measures by helping the world to laugh together. Thus, hearing that Donald Trump wants to ban the app comes as a massive shock and disappointment to the 80 million users in America.
Trump cites national security concerns for banning the app, publicly expressing that ByteDance — TikTok’s owner, could be using the app to collect personal data of millions of Americans, through its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Arkansas Senator, Tom Cotton has claimed that TikTok might be the target of a foreign-influence campaign, and that there are concerns about how China might use the “personal sensitive information” of the app’s users. Thus, it seems that TikTok, the jovial video sharing app, has become caught up in the crossfire between America and China. Is placing TikTok in the firing line justified? Or has Trump got an ulterior motive?
Theories have emerged that Trump has a vendetta against TikTok. The app has recently become a tool for activism, with a surge in socially minded content. The effect of this was seen in Trump’s rally in Tulsa on June 20th which was foiled by TikTokers and youths who organised a campaign to register for tickets to the event, and never showed up. According to participants, even users in England and Australia were buying tickets. This caused much embarrassment for the Trump campaign, with 6000 attendees in an arena holding 19,000. Television cameras captured the rows of empty seats and Trump speaking to an empty arena.
The political impact of TikTok is further seen in the thousands of 1-star reviews on the Apple and Android download centres for the official Trump 2020 app. This undoubtedly highlights the dangers of the app to the Trump campaign, as it is now being used to rally support against him, which portrays the idea of the campaign being weak and unsupported.
In addition, Kevin Mayer, CEO of TikTok affirms that they are not a political organisation, and only exist as a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy. He denies all allegations of national security concerns, stating that all US user data is stored in the US, with a back-up in Singapore. They have also recently removed the app from Hong Kong, a big political move to show it isn’t tied to the Chinese government. This suggests that Trump is using China and ‘national security concerns,’ as a disguise for the increasing threat the app poses to his campaign.
Does banning TikTok put Trump on par with dictators? If we define a dictator as someone that does not want to be questioned; as someone that wants absolute power because too much questioning could lead to rebellion, then yes. The banning of an app which is becoming increasingly used to garner political support against the government brings back memories of Nazi Germany. Joseph Goebbels ensured the German people were fed material that was acceptable to the Nazi state. All forms of media were censored, and even telling jokes about Hitler was banned. Similarly, Mussolini in Fascist Italy used censorship to ensure that all forms of media were committed to ‘the Cause’ and that there was no story antithetical to it.
Such governmental agendas are blatant violations of the citizens’ freedom of speech. Citizens lived in fear of expressing ideas, as they could be punished by the government. Undoubtedly, the levels of fear felt in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy are not felt today. However, banning an app which prides itself on its users expressing ideas and sharing content, does remind me of those periods and cause me to fear such agendas in the future.
By Dominic Clear
Image: by LisetteBrodey via pixabay