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Weather balloon inflates TikTok’s security threats 

Lucas Corbin reporter 

In the final months of 2022, governors across the nation began banning TikTok on state owned devices, reigniting a political divide regarding the platform initiated by former President Donald Trump in 2020.  

Signing the first order to ban the media giant, Gov. (TX.) Greg Abbot cited security threats as a result of the app’s rapid growth.  

As one of her final acts of 2022, Gov. (KS.) Laura Kelly signed an executive order banning the app on state devices, tweeting that it “potentially gives it [data] to the Chinese Community Party”. 

Sen. (MO.) Josh Hawley, who successfully passed a law to remove the app from federally owned devices, has begun working on a national prohibition on the app for civilians. 

The social giant, which has garnered over a billion worldwide users since its launch in 2016, has responded to concerns about data collection by stating that it collects a similar amount of user’s data as other tech companies. 

Legislators should “consider banning all social media apps from government phones,” said Micheal Beckerman, the company’s North American head of public policy, suggested in response to mistrust from government bodies, putting legislators in a peculiar paradox. 

TikTok poses a unique threat to our Western institutions because they have no control over the app’s content moderation policies. While other networks, like Twitter and YouTube, face similar criticisms regarding data collection, they have the benefit of being U.S.-based. Because TikTok is not a domestic network, it is particularly difficult for Congress to obtain information about its algorithms and reach.  

As the Chinese owned weather balloon sailed across the Midwest earlier this month, potentially gathering radio transmissions above key nuclear weapon sites, the complex and adversarial relationship between China and the United States was heightened. Expanding beyond the fierce economic competition and continual military expansion that has been lurking in the background into a personal, centralized, and urgent issue.  

As tensions tighten between the East and West, we continue to see miniature fights between the nations: from trade wars, geopolitical interference, and sanctions against prominent leaders, these tribulations are now filtering their way into becoming a constant reminder of the bleak future. 

In the current Cold War with China, being powerless against TikTok is tantamount to defeat. 

For the majority of TikTok users, the ownership of the company is not a concern; for those leading the charge against the app, it is seen as a battle in the ongoing fight against China. 

As users, we have come to rely on media apps like TikTok as essential parts of our lives. We see the platforms not as gatekeepers into another world, but as social clubs where we can connect with others that share our interests. We feel that we have control over the videos we see; we prioritize the content over the platform. The removal of TikTok would result in the loss of the sense of community many people have found within their personally curated algorithms. Repeatedly, we have heard the privacy concerns, but, as individuals who have constantly been bombarded with the news of data breaches and security threats, have grown numb to the warnings and greatly desire to remain content. 

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