Feds Propose Employee TikTok Ban: SMC 1(12)

Social Media Communication in the News: 
Real-Time Discussion Starters

House Would Ban Federal Employee Use of TikTok
The Politico Morning Tech newsletter reports that some Democrats and Republicans in Washington are moving forward with efforts to curtail the influence of TikTok, which is owned by a company in China: "Lawmakers will this week consider a proposed defense bill amendment that would bar government workers from using the video sharing app."

Meanwhile, some TikTok users developed fake "safety calls" to play if they become worried about a meet-up, Mashable reports. "In one, TikTok user donteatmycheeseburger reminds the viewer to charge their phone, noting that they downloaded a location sharing app," the story explained. "In another, TikTok user graciddy pretends to be annoyed at the viewer for running late" and "pretends that she can see their location." The safety calls also may suggest that someone will be waiting for them when they arrive at a location. Men also have said they find themselves in unsafe situations.

The original video concept has been adapted by TikTok users in other places. Personal safety has been added to previous efforts during the global Covid-19 pandemic, #BlackLivesMatter and "civil unrest."

Question: What other ways could social media communication posts be created and used to help people fearing personal harm? How do you see users practicing social good on your news feed?

#SMC2021 In-Brief
  • "Hundreds of hyper-partisan sites are masquerading as local news," Nieman reports. A project is mapping the potential to further polarize communities during #Election2020.
  • "Google records what people are doing on hundreds of thousands of mobile apps even when they follow the company’s recommended settings for stopping such monitoring, a lawsuit seeking class action status alleged," Reuters reports.
  • Former opinion writer at The New York Times went public with her resignation letter that blames Twitter for a decline in editorial standards: "Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor."

ICYMI: TikTok Money, Politics & Security

At first glance, TikTok may seem fun, but the popular app was a gold mine for new social media influencers. TMZ reported that Sean, also known as @seandoesmagic, "has 13.5 million followers, says the China-based app shutting down would be financially crushing because he makes $15,000 to $20,000 per sponsored post."

The threat to ban TikTok is coming from the Trump Administration, lawmakers and now Amazon. Yahoo!

reports that Amazon employees had been asked to delete the app from mobile phones used for company email. Amazon "told U.S. employees to remove TikTok from all mobile devices connected to Amazon email by the end of the day, or lose access to their email." Later that day, the AP reported that Amazon reversed itself: “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error... There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”

Axios framed the story "amid a broader backlash against TikTok, in part due to questions around possible ties to Beijing." TikTok owner ByteDance is said to raise data security issues for individuals, companies and the U.S. government. India already has responded with a broad ban of Chinese apps.

Currently, China, India and the U.S. have the three largest number of Internet and social media users. Politico concluded that the Covid-19 Coronavirus global pandemic dramatically grew TokTok audience size and critics: “The alarm bells have gone off from a number of different perspectives, in a bipartisan way, and we want to get to the bottom of the problems,” House Energy & Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky said.

The #BlckLivesMatter movement also has gained momentum through TikTok videos produced by users among many demographic groups.

At the same time, the Chinese government attempted to cut access in Hong Kong to TikTok and other social media apps in response to political protests.

Question: How should the U.S. with its First Amendment freedoms respond to security threats posed by TikTok and other software with connections to China and other nations?

SMC news is curated for Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics, third edition (2021).

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