Why are we afraid of TikTok?

“China says it ‘firmly opposes’ a potential forced sale of TikTok” (CNN):

China said it would “firmly oppose” any forced sale of TikTok, in its first direct response to demands by the Biden administration that the app’s Chinese owners sell their share of the company or face a ban in its most important market.

The comments came as TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified in front of US lawmakers amid mounting scrutiny over the app’s ties to Beijing.

China’s commerce ministry said Thursday that a forced sale of TikTok would “seriously damage” global investors’ confidence in the United States.

Why is TikTok more of a security concern than apps from other countries, which might or might not be backed by China ultimately? TikTok is, at least, obviously prominent and can be monitored carefully. I would think the worst computer security problems are the unknown unknowns.

Separately, is the deeper problem with social media apps that they are addictive, especially for young people? Instead of forcing a TikTok sale, would it be smarter to require all of the social media apps to set a 30-minute daily limit per user? (of course, some addicts could get around this by creating multiple accounts, but those would seem to be edge cases)

I’m not a TikTok user, but I logged in with my Google credentials and gave the app my birthdate (Jurassic!). The algorithm is purportedly awesome, but I didn’t find any videos that I wanted to watch on the default home screen. A search for COVID doesn’t yield anything as brilliant as Adley’s April 20, 2020 explanation of Faucism. A search for “Robinson R44” does not yield better content than on YouTube:

I’m following one friend on TikTok, but he keeps his likes private (and maybe there is no way to share them just with me?) so I can’t use his favorite videos as a gateway into the service.


  1. What’s great about TikTok?
  2. Should we force a sale due to TikTok’s Chinese connections?
  3. Should we use regulation to protect ourselves from ourselves via a 30-minute limit on each social media platform?

16 thoughts on “Why are we afraid of TikTok?

  1. What’s great about TikTok? Nothing.
    Should we force a sale due to TikTok’s Chinese connections? No.
    Should we use regulation to protect ourselves from ourselves via a 30-minute limit on each social media platform? No.

  2. What’s good about any of this crap? Bring back Usenet. Or at least stop youtube from auto loading a random video after the one I watched. Did that come from tiktok? Also, screw cute icons all over the place. And overlays.

  3. I do not understand what a “forced sale” would achieve. The company needs exactly one software engineer who works for the CCP and can insert spyware (code review is generally non existent these days and everything is rewritten daily).

    So I guess the SV corporations have a deal with Biden that he’ll go after TikTok and bail out their banks in exchange for control and censorship. TikTok may not be great (I have never used it), but they are afraid of it, because the zoomers prefer it.

    • “The company needs exactly one software engineer who works for the CCP”
      Anon, your message is from an era bygone. Nowadays there code reviews and centralized build pipeline that starts wit code check-in into code management system open for many developers and arti-factories that archive build artifacts for good before builds are deployed

    • “One software engineer” argument can apply to any company, not necessary TikTok. And yet Google and MS do not have these problems (they may have other problems) and all small and large companies I have worked for did not have these problems. OpenAI needs artificial intellect, it is quite terribly run.

  4. I’d worry more about actual cyberattacks (e.g. https://clearinsurance.com.au/10-biggest-cyber-attacks-in-history/ ). If they’re so worried about TikTok, maybe Apple iOS and the AndroidOS folks could help mitigate any possible damage? I assume they are mostly concerned with the phone apps? TikTok has all sorts of categories of content, many of those (as you noted) are also duplicated on Instagram or YouTube (because you can only make so much content quickly). Maybe you should start making R44 TikToks? One of several pilots I’ve followed for a long time on Instagram, but she’s also on TT: https://www.tiktok.com/@pilotmaria/video/6774713019646741765

  5. > Why are we afraid of TikTok?

    Do they pay large contributions to the Democrat party?

  6. If there’s better robinson content than this, I would like to see it. Money quote: if you fall in, we’ll fish you out, dry you off, and fly you home.

    • Pistons are for peasants. Here’s some beautiful turbine content for your enjoyment:

  7. TikTok limits videos to ~30 seconds. Many are only 5-10 seconds. With such a short duration, most are with unusual/extreme/shocking content to catch attention. It gives viewers a quick dopamine hit that produces addictive behavior.

  8. To keep it short (b/c Questions 1 and 2 require some verbage): NO to Question 3, at least as these social media apps are currently construed. The reason is that I often leave Facebook open on my computer or phone. I’m not actively using it, but unless there was a prominent, simple button showing how much time I have left in the session and remind me to either close the app (on my end) or hit a button to put it to sleep (on their end) I would break the 30 minute limit on Day One.

    I’m not against the idea per se, but it should be implemented by the app itself, like the power saving or screen saver timing on a computer.

    Should we be “afraid” of TikTok? I tend to think so. It reportedly has 150 million users who do nothing to conceal their IP addresses (like Tor, for instance – can you use TikTok with Tor?) and they blab all kinds of personal details about themselves, their families, their neighbors+dogs, etc. On the Dark Side, it’s a wonderful and widespread, pervasive spying app, and I think that maybe 1/150 users comprehends that. If you accept the idea – as I do – that the Chinese knowing all this information is more malevolent than the US Government or a US company knowing it, then you begin to question the wisdom. I admit to being something of a hypocrite about this because I just bought a few things from Ali Express.

    Finally, the TikTok “I Wanna Be a Jackass” viral challenges are positively dangerous and destructive. Hey, if you’re China, it’s great to see young Americans hurting themselves, costing thousand$ in health care. And they are very pushy about the app. Every new smartphone I’ve seen (and probably all the free Obamaphones) harass you constantly to install it. It must be valuable to the Chinese on a deeper level than meets the eye, by my reckoning.


    • That’s 150 million US users, allegedly. I am not one of them. YouTube does almost everything I want.

  9. All the big Internet companies collect personal info on their users at a rate that would make the KGB blush.

    The issue here is that this is completely legal, at least in the US. There should be a law against this, but US law is written by large companies.

    TikTok has the added disadvantage that the CCP can demand this data from them at will. Not that the US would ever try that. 😉

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