Tech This Week | #BanTikTok Solves Nothing

Earlier this month, there was an enormous push on Twitter to #BanTikTok. Whereas Twitter is at all times enraged about most issues, there are few apps in India that divide opinion greater than TikTok. Earlier final yr, Madras Excessive Court docket positioned a ban on the app, solely to carry it later.

Allow us to go a stage deeper than the Twitter outrage and take a look at the explanations behind the decision to ban the app. When the Madras Excessive Court docket gave the order to ban TikTok, there was a transparent implicit rationale that may broadly be divided into three details.  Firstly, TikTok has issues with content material. Media protection in India and overseas has famous the presence of pornography on the platform. Apart from, the platform is a really graphic medium to unfold hate speech. WIRED has achieved some wonderful reporting on this and discover that the app has been used as a channel to incite violence between castes, at instances resulting in homicide.


Secondly, TikTok can function a platform to attach kids to predators. Due to the platforms UI, there’s a excessive danger of publicity to strangers and predators in addition to simpler entry to ascertain a contact channel.

Lastly, the app is addictive and might be exhausting for customers to give up. The info backs it up. Indians spend a variety of time on TikTok. In keeping with a report by App Annie, Indians spent over 5.5 billion hours on TikTok, which is greater than the following eleven international locations mixed. Lexi Sydow, a senior supervisor at App Annie, instructed Moneycontrol that not only a results of extra folks accessing TikTok, but additionally deeper engagement per individual.  Other than the explanations listed above, there’s an inherent bias towards the corporate as a result of it’s Chinese language. There are suspicions that TikTok’s mother or father ByteDance is related to the Communist Occasion. There’s additionally the information sovereignty argument, the place Indian information is shared with Chinese language corporations and that sounds problematic.

All the arguments are actual issues and at instances might look like justifications that time to #BanTikTok as an answer. Nonetheless, banning TikTok will not be an answer to any of those. It’s the equal of wanting away from a burning constructing as a substitute of in search of the hearth division.

Allow us to take these arguments one after the other. Firstly, sure TikTok has a content material drawback and that shouldn’t be information to anybody. When social media platforms convey us on-line, they carry humanity’s worst instincts together with our greatest ones. TikTok will not be a singular case right here. All social media platforms have content material moderation issues.  Banning TikTok will result in the emergence of comparable platforms. It’s evident that brief movies as a mode of expression work properly to maintain customers hooked. We have now already seen an uptick in Mitron TV (an Indian TikTok clone). And as Mitron TV picks up extra customers, it’ll face the very same content material moderation drawback that TikTok does at present.

Secondly, there’s the problem of the app behaving as a medium to attach kids to predators. Under no circumstances is that this a defensible use of the platform but it surely continues to be a problem.  In keeping with Medianama, after the Madras Excessive Court docket Ban, TikTok carried out a barrier to entry for these aged 13 or beneath, at instances additionally requiring a authorities ID. Banning TikTok would once more result in related merchandise being accessible on the App Retailer (both home-made or by Fb), and can face the identical points as TikTok does. Since banning TikTok is prone to change little, it makes extra sense to consider find out how to clear up for predators on social networks.

Thirdly, sure the app is addictive. However so are a number of different digital properties. Suppose Netflix, Fb, Instagram, and YouTube. Habit and frictionless entry to social media and streaming is without doubt one of the founding pillars of the eye economic system. However that doesn’t straight translate right into a ban.

Lastly, there’s the problem of ByteDance being carefully linked with the Communist Occasion. The thought right here is that these platforms share information with Chinese language Telecom and perhaps even the Communist Occasion. There are two issues to bear in mind right here.  Firstly, TikTok will not be distinctive, that’s simply how the web works. Not solely are corporations recognized to promote consumer information, however workers inside corporations with entry to information have been recognized to behave as spies. For instance, earlier final yr, Washington Put up reported that Twitter workers have been charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics.

As well as, most massive tech companies in China are backed by the Occasion. Kai Fu Lee, in his guide, AI Superpowers, describes this brilliantly. The genesis of his argument is that whereas corporations are small and handle to give you a product, there’s a struggle to the demise as different corporations can blatantly copy one another as a substitute of investing their very own product. Solely when an organization is large enough, it’s protected by the federal government. Because of this, most Huge Tech in China, together with Huawei, Tencent, ZTE, Alibaba, and Baidu have shut hyperlinks with the Communist Occasion.

Secondly, even when we go forward and ban TikTok as a precaution towards information sharing exterior.  Who’s to say that ByteDance (or an American competitor) gained’t buy the following greatest different or make their very own? The info sharing drawback would nonetheless exist. TikTok’s issues are multi-dimensional and complicated and weighing doable options is one other column ready to be written. However so far as content material moderation goes, it’s at all times going to be difficult for platforms to do a great job. Human content material moderators are an imperfect kamikaze of an answer and it’s too early to say whether or not AI will have the ability to substitute the necessity for a human within the loop.

Secondly, additionally it is not straightforward for platforms to ascertain excellent pointers for what speech is and isn’t allowed. Because of this, pointers are frequently being up to date to mirror newer insurance policies making moderation a tough and dynamic course of, particularly given the amount of utilization in India. The one answer appears to be to offer higher content material moderation practices time to emerge and hope that AI develops at quicker speeds.

In sum, the issues surrounding TikTok are actual and there are not any straightforward solutions. However on the similar time, banning the app will not be an answer. It’s not going to resolve any of the underlying issues that made #BanTikTok development within the first place. As a substitute, they’re going to resurface with a special identify.

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