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FutureStarrHow TikTok is Affecting Politics and National Security
With 2020 presidential election quickly approaching, TikTok is becoming a key platform for political candidates looking to reach young voters - but also an unchecked way for misinformation to spread quickly and effortlessly. Congress is calling for TikTok to better safeguard user data and censor any controversial material; but whether this is an ideal approach remains uncertain. How TikTok Is Affecting Politics TikTok has quickly emerged as an effective political tool. It provides politicians with opportunities to connect with new audiences and younger voters while shaping a generation's political identity. Though most political candidates shy away from TikTok, others are using it to court younger voters. Christina Haswood won her seat in Kansas last year and has taken to using this app as part of her strategy for engaging young voters. Haswood has garnered over two million likes on TikTok and frequently posts videos to her page discussing her campaign and work with local youth. She's an advocate of data privacy and has called for regulations that protect user information. Trump administration officials are concerned about TikTok's potential to spy on American users; however, they haven't banned it yet. Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton sent a letter to the Department of State in November 2022 requesting an assessment of TikTok's threat to national security. TikTok policies raise major privacy issues for its users and the Chinese government alike, particularly since users must grant the company access to their cameras, microphones, contacts and more sensitive data such as keystroke patterns. These data can be utilized by China's government to monitor citizens and by other countries for surveillance, according to Kara Frederick, Director of Facebook's Counterterrorism Program. TikTok's content and moderation policies appear to be heavily influenced by Beijing, leading to accusations of censorship from US officials as former employees reported being required to remove videos found subversive by their colleagues in China. Since some have claimed TikTok is connected with Beijing, some have proposed it should be banned in the US. But Softbank and Sequoia Capital investors say otherwise, assuring their respective clients they do not share any ties to Beijing. TikTok has drawn fire from other governments. India recently announced it would ban it, while a group of U.S. tech companies called Triller issued an open letter calling TikTok the biggest security risk facing America today. Although TikTok adheres to its own policies and does not share user data with third parties, there remain security concerns with regard to TikTok. Some analysts claim it could be used by the Chinese government as an instrument of influence when spreading misinformation through TikTok; additionally, due to its popularity among young users in the US it could become vulnerable to attacks from adversaries. TikTok’s Influence on Social Media TikTok is an entertaining app that allows its users to create short videos in three seconds or less for up to a minute of duration, including dances, comedy sketches or talent shows. People use TikTok both to show off their best dance moves or share personal narratives. Due to its growing popularity, Tinder has given rise to many issues and debates surrounding it, including issues concerning its links with China as well as privacy concerns related to user data. Regardless, the app has quickly become a central part of social media and life for its users, giving teens the confidence to express themselves freely without fearing what others think of their thoughts or expressions. It has also helped young people connect with each other and form friendships through this app, and has enabled people to learn about events happening in their local area. TikTok's popularity has given rise to some political issues and concerns; one being its use by recruiters to reach out directly to young people via TikTok. Senator Chuck Schumer is concerned that TikTok may be being used by China's government as a recruitment platform for teenage soldiers. He suspects this social networking service could be being exploited to recruit teens into becoming military service members. While these allegations cannot be proven, they have raised serious concerns over the app. Multiple governments have voiced their displeasure with it and banned it in their countries. India recently banned TikTok from their app store, while Australia's intelligence agency is conducting an investigation of it. Meanwhile, in the US they requested its removal from federal government mobile phones. Some users have voiced concerns that the Chinese government may use TikTok for spying purposes and gain access to user data through TikTok's backdoor. Fears remain that this app could be used as a weapon against elections, similar to how Russia used social media during 2016 to alter election results. TikTok’s Influence on Education TikTok has quickly become one of the premier social media platforms. Owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, it enables users to upload short videos between three seconds and one minute long. TikTok's growing popularity has also given rise to an explosion of educational content on its platform, which many teachers utilize for instructing their students about various subjects or even to promote physical education classes. Another educator utilizes TikTok videos to assist his students with developing their writing abilities. He has posted several TikTok videos detailing a range of writing prompts and tips designed to assist his pupils in producing more effective essays. TikTok has also become a powerful platform for political activism. A marketing company paid influencers on TikTok to post pro-Joe Biden videos. Influencers who were paid for their content did not have to disclose it as required under TikTok's terms of service, contrary to what New York University researchers reported. Yet TikTok failed to enforce this rule, according to their report. TikTok has quickly become an increasingly important source of misinformation and disinformation, prompting a series of lawsuits. One major complaint against it is its failure to restrict smear campaigns or untrue claims which threaten an election campaign. TikTok has also become an effective way of encouraging voter registration. A number of creators created video campaigns urging voter turnout in the 2020 election. Matt Head, an elementary school teacher from Salem, Oregon is using TikTok to increase class participation. He maintains an account on TikTok where he posts short videos demonstrating brain breaks and activities used during physical education classes. Microlearning, or self-paced autonomous learning experiences, are growing increasingly popular as an approach to helping learners discover information at their own pace while still seeking connection and engagement with learning material. Teachers interested in exploring this form of learning can access various resources online that will assist them in creating and sharing TikTok-inspired videos, such as a YouTube channel featuring educational TikTok content or an online tool that allows students to make their own TikTok video. TikTok’s Influence on Entertainment TikTok is an immensely popular video-sharing app, enabling users to upload short (60-second or less) clips featuring dance moves, comedy skits, lip-syncing challenges, viral challenges and art. TikTok has quickly become an indispensable platform used by media companies, celebrities and politicians as well as local government departments in reaching their target audiences in today's increasingly digital environment. Concerns have also been expressed over its popularity from U.S. policymakers, who worry about its links to China and how it handles user data. As a result, several legislators and senators have called for its banning; several senators even introduced bills in response. But despite these fears, the app's popularity continues to soar. Now a mainstay in online entertainment and as the leading social media platform in America. Popularity has raised some concerns among lawmakers who worry about how this app interacts with and handles user data, especially given its links with China's government, which has developed one of the world's most advanced surveillance states. TikTok has taken steps to help address this problem by restricting political accounts' monetization options on its platform. Any account belonging to a political party or politician will have their advertising features disabled from now on; anyone wanting to advertise must secure approval from TikTok first. Though this may seem like a minor change, it could have significant ramifications on social media's future. Political campaigns on platforms like TikTok can have an incredible effect on voter turnout. TikTok, as a young app that has only been around for three years, faces the uphill challenge of keeping politics from polluting its carefree vibe. As more users familiarize themselves with TikTok and its content, this challenge only becomes harder.