The TikTok people have a message for President Trump

The TikTok people have a message for President Trump

The last time we checked in on the TikTok controversy, the President was threatening to ban the platform entirely from American soil unless a way could be found to not have the app ship everyone’s data directly to the Chinese Communist Party. Stepping into the breach thus far has been Microsoft, who has “generously” offered to take the problem off of everyone else’s hands and buy TikTok and run it themselves. But even that doesn’t sound like a plan that’s going to make the heavy hitters in the American TikTok community very happy. A group of them, led by someone named Max Beaumont, have penned an open letter to the President, asking him to reconsider his threatened course of action. But from the way Beaumont describes things, handing the platform over to Microsoft wouldn’t be much of an improvement over the CCP. (Medium)

Gen-Z spent our childhoods on the internet. But the internet that we encountered as teenagers was a very different internet than the one we grew up with. Net neutrality and freedom of information were sacrificed in favor of corporate monopoly. Facebook and Google have taken the place of hundreds of companies and narrowed the world’s definition of what the internet could be.

TikTok is not based on open access or freedom of information: there are serious concerns over how the app collects its data that merit an American response. But ironically, it is the first company to challenge the companies that have put an end to the open internet. TikTok has enabled the kinds of interactions that could never take place on the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

We do not expect our parents’ generation to understand how it has done so. We expect them to think that we are naive creators desperate to keep our followings. But we wanted to explain why we think that Donald Trump should think again about his decision to eliminate TikTok from America’s shores.

Signing off on this letter are 19 other people, all presumably TikTok luminaries, each one listing their number of followers under their names. They range from just over one million to as high as 26.2 million. (Somewhat ironically, Beaumont comes in as low man on that totem pole with 360K followers.) Having never used TikTok nor even installed it on any of my devices, I’m not familiar with their work, but I assume they are “influencers” in the TikTok universe.

While Beaumont admits that there are data security issues with the platform that need to be addressed, his broader complaint seems to be with the overall functioning of the internet and how the Big Tech giants have impacted how we all navigate and use the web. His chief complaints are with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which he accuses of dominating public discourse and fostering an increasingly partisan and divisive environment. (Okay, Max… I think we’re going to have to give you that one.) But what does he propose we do about it without surrendering ourselves to the not-so-tender mercies of the CCP?

He suggests “spinning off” TikTok USA into a private business and letting them have an IPO. Before you point out that Microsoft taking it over would accomplish the same goal, keep in mind what the author just finished pointing out. Microsoft is already part of the evil empire that’s driving everyone apart and dominating the internet. In fact, one might persuasively argue that Microsoft is the Darth Vader of this particular universe. So handing them control of TikTok probably wouldn’t do much to assuage Beaumont’s fears.

But what’s the alternative? TikTok has already grown into a monster and you need a ton of investment capital to take over an operation like that. There aren’t many kindly mom and pop shops with that sort of cash laying around. If Microsoft wasn’t going to buy it, the app likely would have gone to Google or someone else in the same club.

In the end, however, even if we don’t satisfy all of Max Beaumont’s dreams, cutting off the CCP’s access to our data is still a plus, right? Well… sort of. But now it will all be going to Microsoft. I suppose that’s an improvement, but I wouldn’t call it a black and white, night and day distinction.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on March 24, 2023