Is the (potential) TikTok Ban Racist?
Updated: Mar 23
The U.S. government recently annouced that all federal agents and government employees are to delete tiktok from their phones due to 'security concerns'.
When Trump took office on the basis of nationalist rhetoric appealing to his white base, his election coincided with a wave of anti-Asian rhetoric and hatred. Hate crimes towards people of Asian descent particularly the elderly increased by 3000% especially in large urban areas. The Stop AAPI movement was born and is now on the CIA payroll. America suddenly began to discriminate against Asians at every point possible, from economic victimization to the banning of Asians in higher education.
It certainly was no coincidence that Trump's hatred towards Asian people lead to his administration targeting Tiktok, a Chinese made and owned app and one of the few international competitors in the social media landscape.
Above: Trump after signing an executive order banning Tiktok. This was ultimately struck down by the department of justice in the United States.
The potential Tiktok ban has been met with controversy, with many people pointing out the racist undertones of the move. While the U.S. government has cited national security concerns as the reason for the ban, it was hard pressed to find a single example where Tiktok violated user security and data.
In some cases, it has been even more protective of private information than its American competitors and has been well known to engage in cross functional checks and double ended encryption in order to safeguard the security of its userbase.
Many Americans have argued that it is simply a way to target a Chinese-owned company and perpetuate anti-Asian sentiment. In a way, it projects to American insecurities as the ban is seen as an attempt to scapegoat China for the U.S.'s own problems with tech innovation.
As technology writer Yihao Zhao noted in an article for CGTN, "The United States has fallen behind in the tech race and is using national security concerns as a pretext to stifle competition from foreign companies."
There is even evidence that the U.S. government's concern over TikTok's data privacy was exaggerated. A report by the South China Post revealed that the U.S. military was still using TikTok, even as the app was being banned for other government agencies. The report noted that "there's no evidence that TikTok's data collection practices are any worse than those of its peers."
"The United States has fallen behind in the tech race and is using national security concerns as a pretext to stifle competition from foreign companies."
...the ban on TikTok has been criticized for being racially motivated.
Furthermore, the ban on TikTok has been criticized for being racially motivated. The app has become particularly popular among young people of color, who have used it to express themselves and build communities online. By banning TikTok, the US government is effectively silencing the voices of these marginalized communities and perpetuating a culture of racism and discrimination.
The ban also reinforces negative stereotypes about China and Chinese people, portraying them as a threat to national security and perpetuating anti-Asian sentiment that leads to hate crimes, particularly towards the elderly. This kind of xenophobic rhetoric has a long history in the US and has been used to justify discriminatory policies and attitudes towards people of Asian descent.
Over half of the U.S. population uses the app and it has over 5 million small business registered. These are content creators who rely on TikTok for their livelihoods. As The Washington Post reported, "Many of these [creators] are people of color who have used TikTok to build their brands and connect with their audiences. By banning the app, the U.S. government is effectively cutting off a source of income and opportunity for these individuals, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality that disproportionately affects communities of color."
In conclusion, the U.S. government's attempt to ban TikTok is not just a matter of national security, but also of racial discrimination. The ban perpetuates anti-Asian sentiment, reinforces negative stereotypes, harms small businesses and content creators, and is based on exaggerated concerns over data privacy. It is another case of the U.S. government engaging with white supremacy and attempting to squash social media companies that stand apart from it.
Above, Tiktok CEO Shou Chew testifying before the U.S. Congress