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.
TikTok claims that it no longer has this entanglement with the Chinese military. It has moved its American data to servers in the USA, servers maintained by the American company Oracle. But making backups of data in Beijing and keeping them updated in real time is relatively easy.
And keeping track of who and where you are can come in handy for the Chinese military if you are an American soldier. TikTok’s data could tell the Chinese People’s Liberation Army where you American fighters are massing for an assault. If you are hiding behind a rock, TikTok data could pinpoint your exact location as a target. Tik Tok’s data could tell the Chinese military where you are if you are a spy. And it could give a sense of what you’re up to.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese. Its main office is in Beijing. But there’s nothing to worry about. Right? We don’t have any wars with China. Or do we?
Remember, there is an invisible military alliance, an axis of evil. It consists of China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
One of those nations is at war with the West—it’s Russia in the Ukraine. Russia is a Chinese ally. If any of the Ukraine’s soldiers has downloaded TikTok to his or her phone, then Russia may have the ultimate spy device against its adversary.
And if you and I have TikTok, we may be bombarded with pro-Russian videos. Videos that claim that the Ukrainians are Nazis and that all of the civilian deaths in the Ukraine caused by Russian cruise missiles and artillery shells have actually been staged as provocations by the evil Ukrainians.
Howard Bloom has been called the Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV. One of his seven books–Global Brain—was the subject of a symposium thrown by the Office of the Secretary of Defense including representatives from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Psychology Today, and the Scientific American. He does news commentary at 1:06 am et every Wednesday night on 545 radio stations on Coast to Coast AM. For more, see http://howardbloom.institute.