The War on TikTok

Karl H Christ
3 min readMar 25, 2024

The US government’s nearly united front against TikTok is absurd performative bullshit based in fanatical anti-Chinese animus and hypocritical economic opportunism.

It also shows that the proclaimed ethics and ideologies of many politicians are often conditional, or just posturing nonsense.

Members of Congress are attacking TikTok based purely on paranoia and suspicion. They suspect that the app is collecting data on its users and they are paranoid about this because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. They’re probably right about the app collecting data. Damn near every app collects user data. Especially if it’s free. That’s how the companies that own the app make money. They collect and sell user data. How is this still a conversation? No one who knows diddly shit about modern tech is surprised by this.

As for the paranoia about the Chinese government having access to that data, well, maybe they do. The Chinese government has a lot of control over the companies in its economy. But I find it doubtful that, if they collected user data from TikTok, it would have much value to them, beyond them giving, or selling, the data to other companies for sales and marketing fodder. If they collect the data, that’s probably what they do, to help Chinese companies sell more shit, to make more money, to boost the economy, because that’s what every other tech company with a free app, in any country, does as a matter of course. That’s the business model.

That is, I believe, what actually frightens US politicians. They’re afraid of China surpassing the US economically. That’s why they keep offering the company the carrot of leaving their Chinese parent company to be sold to another, preferably American, company. Will an American tech company behave as shadily as any Chinese one presumably does? Assuredly. They do it on the daily. But they’ll be American-owned, and so pay American taxes, or, preferably to congress-folk, pay lobbyists and bribe politicians in order to avoid paying taxes.

Otherwise staunch evangelists of open markets and free trade are dictating the business decisions of a foreign company. It’s not because TikTok is a threat to the American people, almost certainly, but because they view it as economic competition. They anticipate how the sale of TikTok to a US-based company will benefit them far more than they are concerned about any theoretical potential harm being done to us.

I don’t have TikTok. I know there’s some good stuff on there, and will occasionally look at it, when someone, usually my fiance, shows it to me. But I don’t want it. I generally find it obnoxious. Especially that horrible artificial voice that people use to narrate their videos. God, how I hate that wretched uncanny valley voice. And I’m easily aggravated when someone, like maybe, possibly, my fiance, perhaps in bed, while I may be trying to read, flips through the app, so that I hear bits of discordant, contextless, and frenetically changing noise. But I get the appeal of it, in the way that I get the appeal of slot machines and cocaine. That I could get addicted to it is reason enough for me to avoid the app. But the problems with TikTok aren’t unique to it, and its Chinese ownership doesn’t make it more nefarious by default. This is just the latest farce performed by our supposed representatives to benefit themselves, financially, politically, however, rather than working on matters of actual importance.