Expert says TikTok poses dangers that other social media platforms don’t

Mar 28, 2023, 4:00 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 9:56 am

Governments have a long road ahead of them as they try to regulate TikTok, which young generations ...

FILE - In this July 21, 2020 file photo, a man opens the social media app 'TikTok' on his cell phone, in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed, File)

(AP Photo/Anjum Naveed, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are treading new waters when it comes to largely unregulated social media platforms like TikTok. 

Congressional hearings late last week brought to light not just security and privacy issues with the app, but also mental health concerns.

Inside Sources Host Boyd Matheson turned to Paul Bingham, former FBI agent, and current vice president and dean at Western Governors University’s College of Information Technology to discuss the varying threats. 

What are the concerns?

Bingham explained that aside from privacy and security, there are major concerns with the app’s effects. 

“Mental health, bullying, sexual exploitation implications. And I think what makes this TikTok situation so unique is it adds another layer to privacy and security concerns,” he explained to Matheson. 

Bingham then explained that the added layer of privacy and security concerns surrounding the app comes from the fact its corporate ownership is subject to Chinese rule, access and potential control. 

“I think it’s important to remember a common phrase that relates to online services, and that is, if you aren’t paying for the service, then you are the service,” Bingham says. 

In other words, the service is free in exchange for monetization and access to your data; learning all they can about you. Monetization, in simple terms, means converting something into money. 

The extra layer of concern around TikTok, which differs from other social media platforms, is the access to that data by the Chinese government. 

Bingham explained that access to this data can create an algorithm that manipulates its users in a way other social media platforms don’t.

“Most social media platforms that we think about are doing that [using an algorithm] to leverage or capitalize the money-making opportunity,” Bingham said.

TikTok has a different agenda when it comes to using users’ data. 

“To start driving their [the Chinese government] conversations or their way of thinking or even what they’re researching and looking into,” he said. “Targeting specific populations, to learn more about them, to learn more about the things they’re doing online and more effectively compromised those populations.”

Why governments are banning TikTok

According to Bingham, the goal of the state and federal government is to protect citizens in terms of privacy, security, and mental health. 

“It’s a fine line between the perception of what is protection and what is censorship,” he added. 

Bingham went on to tell Matheson that when looking at companies subject to Chinese laws and regulations, two kinds of access should be considered. 

“One is that the Chinese government has direct access and control through a persistent presence within the company. Or perhaps access through legal and regulatory processes.” 

Chinese routine surveillance and monitoring of its citizens and visitors are far more intrusive than what we’re used to in the United States, according to Bingham.

“In China, there is only really one tech company, and it’s called the Chinese government,” Bingham told Matheson in explaining why lawmakers would be concerned. 

Governments have a long road ahead of them as they try to regulate TikTok, which young generations have been consuming daily for some time now, and likely won’t be keen on any government regulation. 

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Expert says TikTok poses dangers that other social media platforms don’t