By Howard Bloom
On June 24th, one of the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, wrote a lone wolf letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Carr asked the heads of Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.
That is a big ask. Wired Magazine reports that TikTok “has more than one billion users, double that of Snapchat and Twitter combined.” And “TikTok stars [are] making up to $5 million a year on the platform.”
What’s more, asking that Apple and Google no longer make TikTok available is a violation of the Constitution’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Remember, TikTok has provided a whole new kind of public square. A place where you can perform and gather a following.
So why this move? Says Carr, apps owned by Chinese firms pose a “national security threat” and can be used as “sophisticated tools of surveillance” and manipulation. In other words, apps from China can be used as weapons of war.
Carr’s letter was not co-signed by his fellow commissioners, and Carr is a Republican holdover in a Democratic administration, so his letter does not carry the force of law. But there is merit to what he’s asking.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed TikTok, you’ve handed the app the right to track you, to record your every word, to note your every choice, to keep track of how long you linger over every picture, to get a sense of your tastes, and to register your face and your voiceprint.
You’ve also given TikTok the right to bombard you with propaganda.
But would a private company ever use its data for evil? Yes, companies based in China certainly would. The law in China requires that every Chinese company share its powers with the Chinese military. Every company in China must be prepared to make war on an enemy when the government tells it to. And every scrap of data a company has, including every algorithm, must be built for use as a civilian good or a military weapon.