Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Point-counterpoint: Young americans weigh impact of potential TikTok ban

Tik Tok divides lawmakers, young people over access to community and public health risks
Jacob Duran

Following the U.S. House of Representatives recent passage of a bill to ban TikTok — or force its sale to an American company — young social media users are considering the benefits and drawbacks of losing access to the platform. Considering the challenges social media poses to young users and the opportunities it provides to learn from unofficial sources, what are the impacts of placing restrictions on TikTok?

Point: Banning TikTok would prevent young people from connecting with others, organizing politically, learning from unofficial sources

A certain political fantasy is floating around both Democratic and Republican circles in Washington. That is, TikTok and its powerful algorithm somehow operates to create a cesspool for explicitly anti-American talking points and adversely influences domestic politics.


But on the other side of the coin, TikTok serves as an important source for social connection and as an unofficial news outlet, according to a study from Pew Research Center. A ban on TikTok would threaten the existence of a dynamic community of over 150 million American users.

The genesis of the federal government’s recent attack on the media giant is somewhat predictable. Pro-Palestinian content has flooded the platform since Oct. 7, disgruntling many pro-Israel advocates in Washington, according to a report from NBC News. Yet, this phenomenon appears to be a reflection of user engagement rather than part of a shadowy agenda to promote the Palestinian cause, according to reporting from Al Jazeera.

Regardless of which side of the Israel-Palestine conflict you lean toward, this episode demonstrates TikTok’s powerful capability to disseminate information and perspectives that would otherwise be relatively unavailable to the American public. With certain checks on the platform’s algorithm, this feature could be vital to maintaining a healthy democracy and promoting civic engagement.

TikTok’s parent company, the Chinese firm ByteDance, also draws acute concern from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. According to proponents of a TikTok ban, risks of TikTok leaking American users’ data to the Chinese government are a paramount threat. Yet, further development and implementation of Project Texasa plan to store all American data exclusively in the U.S. — could resolve these fears.

Similar issues of data collection, transparency and user privacy are not unique to TikTok. Controversy also surrounds American media moguls like Google and Meta, but it is hard to imagine a realistic or politically viable effort to ban either of these firms. In this context then, a ban on TikTok is ultimately a move against a firm simply because of politically sensitive ties to China — an unfair standard applied discriminately to TikTok.

Problems arising from the platform’s “addictiveness” are worthy of serious consideration, but other social media platforms would fail to escape scrutiny if judged by the same standard. According to the Brown University School of Public Health, the addictive structure of Facebook and TikTok remain “remarkably alike.” The major difference boils down to the demographics of users on each platform.

Students and the millions of other young people who disproportionately use TikTok face the biggest impact of a potential ban. The platform’s horizontal proliferation of information — if fact-checked and verified — can be a transformational crutch to our struggling democracy and a source of a vibrant community. A ban jeopardizes American access to the future of mass media and online communities.

Jack Rogers ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying Chinese, economics and political science.

Counterpoint: Banning TikTok might not be best course of action, but major reforms to platform and other social media companies necessary to protect public health

While TikTok can be a platform for worldwide connection, there are multiple issues that must be addressed. This does not necessarily mean banning the platform itself or forcing ByteDance to sell it is the right path, but guidelines should be put in place to ensure the platform is safer for all people.

A large complaint amongst those who want TikTok to be banned is the addictive and at times dangerous nature of the algorithmic “For You” page that provides content to users based on their interests and previously interacted with videos on the platform, according to Amnesty International.

The “For You” page on TikTok is infinite — there is no end to the content a single user can receive. This design choice was made to maximize users’ time spent on the platform, according to Amnesty International. Youth interviewed by adolescent psychologists said they spend hours scrolling through their TikTok.

Amnesty International also said the “For You” page can push self-harm or suicide related content to teens who identify an interest in mental health within three to 20 minutes of signaling that interest. Additionally, in a single hour, an account that signaled an interest in mental health received multiple videos romanticizing and encouraging suicide, with over half of the videos on that account’s “For You” page relating to mental health struggles.

TikTok’s algorithm can also share dangerous disordered eating content with young users. A study conducted by the Wall Street Journal created multiple automated accounts with an age of 13 and found these accounts received thousands of videos related to weight loss. These videos included diets, how many calories a person should eat to lose weight, water cleanses and promoting weight loss “competitions” amongst users.

Aside from the algorithm, the TikTok platform collects copious amounts of data from its users. Another study conducted by Amnesty International found that by keeping users addicted to their platform, the app is able to collect data classify users. TikTok makes these classifications available to advertisers, who target ads toward users — including children. In areas of the world with fewer laws and regulations, TikTok performs more invasive data collection, according to Amnesty International.

It is clear TikTok is a dangerous app — especially for children due to its addictive nature and data collection policies. But banning or forcing a sale of the app is not the right path either.

Before TikTok even existed, researchers extensively discussed the addictive properties of social media platforms on youth. Social media is designed to entice people to continue scrolling, and platforms need users to consistently utilize the app for that platform to keep running, according to Harvard Business Review. The addictive, algorithmic nature of social media is not a problem specific to TikTok, but to all social media platforms.

TikTok does not actually collect any more data than Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, according to the Washington Post. In fact, TikTok, Meta and Google utilize many of the same data collection methods and provide such data to advertisers, according to CNN. Though TikTok collects a lot of data, it is not any more invasive than what American companies are already doing.

Instead of banning a single app, the solution should be to restrict the collection and sale of data to advertisers, and to enforce age restrictions on social media.

Instead of banning or forcing a sale of TikTok, restrictions must be placed on all social media platforms so individuals — especially children — are best protected from harmful content and data collection practices.

Emily Otten is a senior majoring in journalism.

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