It's not just TikTok


There have been embarrassing tech hearings before. Older congressmen and -women, who sometimes appear to lack even basic understanding of how technology works, questioning the CEOs of Apple, Google and Facebook. This time, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was questioned mercilessly for five hours. He was given little time to defend the company and his requests to respond were mostly denied. Both republican and democrat lawmakers agreed on the path towards the inevitable goal: banning TikTok.

There are enough legitimate reasons to have concerns about TikTok — data collection, the way the algorithm works, spread of fake news or topics dangerous to children — these are all true for services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well. For the US, the biggest problem with TikTok is China. 

I live in the Netherlands, an ally of the USA. Obviously, China is an important partner of the entire EU as well. A few days ago, Dutch officials were requested to immediately uninstall TikTok from their work phones, because China has an "offensive cyber program against the Netherlands and/or Dutch interests". 

Again, there are reasons to be suspicious of China or disapprove of their political structure, but I mostly wonder why officials would have social media apps — including Instagram and Facebook — installed on their work phone in the first place. Any app, from any country, potentially collecting sensitive information is a threat. 

I'm not so much for or against banning TikTok entirely, but in my opinion, from an EU perspective, we should treat data collection and algorithmic manipulation the same for any kind of product, no matter the origin. Facebook seems to be getting away with scandal after scandal. Whether it's Cambridge Analytica, the lack of taking responsibility for the content on the platforms or allowing dangerous advertisements, we all seem to say and understand that it's wrong but appropriate actions have not been taken.

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