A Century After Prohibition, US Congress Targets TikTok

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TikTok banThe Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages beginning in 1920. Now, just over one hundred years later, there’s talk in Congressional hearings of prohibiting the use of TikTok in the US.

Back in 1920, tens of millions of Americans enjoyed drinking alcohol, but that didn’t matter to those who pushed for the ban.

Today, TikTok has 150 million monthly active users in the United States, millions of small businesses use the platform to share content with existing and potential customers, and there are nearly 7,000 US-based TikTok employees but those people don't seem to matter to those who want a ban.

The hypocrisy of freedom

150 million TikTok usersFor many members of Congress, “Freedom” means that what I like should be legal but what you like should be banned.

The argument for banning TikTok is the Chinese company owned app is a national security threat because user data can be misused.

Is that a valid reason to take away something that 150 million Americans use? Is the escalation of a trade war with China over a social media app worth it? I’d say, emphatically, no and no.

Congress didn’t ban or force a breakup of Facebook when nearly 100 million Facebook users’ personal data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a UK company, and then sold to companies in Russia. The illicit data was used to provide Facebook advertising targeting to, among others, the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Yes, Facebook was fined by the Federal Trade Commission. But the company wasn’t forced out of the US or broken up.

Facebook is the bigger threat

The Facebook Artificial Intelligence powered algorithm is a much worse threat to the United States. The AI is designed to suck users into the content that interests them the most. This leads tens of millions of its 2.7 billion global users into an abyss of misinformation, a quagmire of lies, and a quicksand of conspiracy theories.

Facebook is a bigger threat to US interests than TikTok, but does that mean Facebook should be banned?

A Washington Post poll finds that 41 percent of Americans support a federal ban of TikTok, while 25 percent say they oppose it, with 71 percent concerned that TikTok’s parent company is based in China, including 36 percent who say they are “very concerned.” Most of the people who are concerned or who want a ban do not use TikTok.

Let’s stop allowing members of Congress to talk of a TikTok ban to score anti-China points. It makes little sense on so many levels to ban the app. If they really care about American's safety, they should go after the Facebook AI.

Headline: Via ChatGPT-4 using the draft of my post.

Prohibition image: Public domain - New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. 

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