If any US citizens still believe that the two corporate political parties are working in the best interests and rights of the people, the current bipartisan effort to effectively ban the video hosting site TikTok should certainly be disillusioning.
In last week’s Congressional hearing/grilling of TikTok CEO Shu Zi Chew, several civil servants took turns grandstanding, each in an effort to proof themself the most xenophobic. Republicans and Democrats alike were proud to stand in lockstep agreement that what appears to be a fairly innocuous website for sharing minute-long quips about life and dance videos is actually an insidious data-mining farm for TikTok parent company ByteDance, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese national government.
Time and again in the interrogation, congresspeople noted the 150 million accounts registered with TikTok and that these poor innocent mostly young folks were at the mercy of Chinese propaganda and misinformation campaigns. And as in a McCarthyite show trial, any answer given by Chew made for confirmation bias that these brave “public servants” would be right to firewall TikTok from impressionable American minds.
The hypocrisy of Congress’s principled stance is typical and obvious. Google is particularly pernicious in terms of personal data mining; what do you suppose those advertising popups (so often eerily prescient) appearing on screens of every Google user in the US come from?
As for data security, despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spending a cumulative 12 hours testifying before Congress on the security of his social network platform in 2018 and 2021, no mere suggestion of banning Facebook was ever made, perhaps due to complex questions of free speech.
Between the “Twitter Files” stories and CEO Elon Musk’s recent shenanigans with his platform, one wonders how anyone could consider any social media, US-owned or otherwise, free of misinformation and propaganda.
Finally, what of fair competition in the so-called “free market”? For decades, American companies from Apple, Boeing and Caterpillar to McDonalds and Starbucks have been doing business in China with no comparable pushback from that country’s authorities. Should Chinese businesses providing a demanded product be denied the rights extended to foreign-owned companies in their country?
All put together, the argument for banning TikTok is exposed for little more than Sinophobia and American billionaire protectionism – and the end result will be another hit to Americans’ already wavering right to free speech.
There is one upside to this Congress’s authoritarian display, however. With Republicans and Democrats alike willing to deprive millions of their favorite social media platform for an abstract victory in the new Cold War, Election 2024 will be a great time to support candidates willing to defend free speech and embrace peace – to vote progressive, to vote Socialist, and to vote Peace & Freedom Party!
– Debra Reiger
Peace & Freedom Party Chair