TikTok is the latest social media sensation, and it's favored globally by mostly young people as a platform for sometimes creative and always short videos.
Anyone can post videos on TikTok, but it's dominated by "the self-made celebrities of Generation Z” who "have spent a decade filming themselves through a front-facing camera and meticulously honing their understanding of what their peers will respond to," according to a brilliant piece in The New Yorker by Jia Tolentino.
Specifically, the Party forces ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, to censor mentions of the Hong Kong protests, Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the Falun Gong and indeed criticism of socialism or any country or politician and any topics deemed threatening by the Chinese government, including Democracy, free speech and self determination.
The company has reportedly spent more than a billion dollars on Facebook and Instagram advertising to drive growth.
TikTok now has more than a half-billion users. It's bigger than Twitter or Snapchat.
"ByteDance often hacks its way into a market, aggressively courting influencers on other social-media networks and spending huge amounts on advertising, much of which runs on competing platforms," according to The New Yorker. Most of TikTok's growth comes at the expense of participation in other social networks that are not censored by the Communist Party.
The app surfaces the most compelling videos using ByteDance's AI -- the company's core competency-- so the app always promises a dopamine hit of pointless but addictive entertainment.
TikTok is a product of the Chinese Communist Party's policy on social media, which is to say that it bans social networks it cannot control -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., are all banned in China. But the rest of the world does not ban Chinese social networks.
As a result, by default, only social networks controlled by the Chinese Communist Party can be global sensations.
Bans and censorship is Beijing's policy for controlling global conversations.
We should boycott, and our governments should ban, TikTok for these reasons. But we won't.
Welcome to our dystopian idiocracy of the future, where young minds are captured by sub-literate, AI-selected snippets of digital soma censored by a totalitarian government and nobody cares.