From our correspondent
Assistant professor of internet culture at the University of Alabama, Jessica Maddox has made a habit of showing, in her social media class, a virtual map of places in the United States where TikTok is banned. . “My students, who all use the platform, wonder about the reasons for these bans and how they can be compatible with freedom of expression. “Among his students, some are” influencers “, followed by more than 100,000 people on the social network, from which they derive income.
In recent months, bans on TikTok have multiplied across the Atlantic amid concerns about the protection of user data and possible manipulation of the algorithm by China. While dozens of schools and universities have adopted restrictions, more than half of US states (27 out of 50) now prevent their administrations from downloading the application on all or some of their work tools, according to the site. Government Technology.
This movement transcends political divides: the list includes both very conservative places, such as Texas, and Democratic countries, such as New Jersey and Maryland. In December, Indiana filed two lawsuits against TikTok, which the Republican state’s attorney accused of being a “malicious and consumer-threatening app at the hands of a Chinese company that knows only too well the damage ‘it inflicts on users’. Reference to ByteDance, the parent company of the Beijing-based platform.
At the national level, Republican Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, last year proposed a provision banning the application of devices used by federal state personnel. The measure was ratified by Joe Biden in December, with the support of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Senator Hawley now wants to ban the app altogether in the United States. The goal: to prevent, according to him, the Chinese Communist Party from accessing “personal information and the location of Americans”.
This fear is not new. In 2020, Donald Trump pressured ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US company to prevent any potential national security threats. In vain. In December 2022, FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed those fears. At a conference, he said that Chinese authorities could use the algorithm to modify the content presented to users, influence them or even collect their personal data. “These things are in the hands of a government that does not share our values,” he said. That should worry us. »
ByteDance defended itself by recalling that it is a private entity and that “TikTok Inc, which operates the service in the United States, is an American company that responds to American law”. At the end of December, she nevertheless admitted that some of her employees had spied on journalists from Forbes magazine responsible for covering the company. She referred to an isolated act.
For Jessica Maddox, the social network is partly paying the price for anti-Chinese sentiment. “TikTok has become an easy political target, but we should above all talk about the regulation of all social networks. The platform does not collect more personal data than Facebook, for example, which has experienced flaws in this area,” she said. The 67% of Americans aged 13 to 17 who use the application “do not think about national security issues”, continues the expert. Even companies, universities and certain politicians will find it difficult to get rid of it voluntarily as it is now an integral part of their marketing and communication strategy.
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