TikTok Ban Talk Restarts – Spotlight #454

Good Monday Morning

It’s March 20th. The Fed Open Market Committee meets Wednesday. Since their March 17, 2022 meeting, they’ve increased the fed funds rate 8 times, from a very low 0.25% to the current 4.75%.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,030 words — about 4 minutes to read.

Spotlight On … a TikTok Ban

The Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the company. Americans’ data may be accessible to Chinese officials, so politicians worry that the app may be used for propaganda and censorship or in service of a nebulous “national security” reason. Talk of a TikTok ban is increasing again.

TikTok creators take the threat of a ban seriously. Many have recommended alternative social media channels to their followers over the last week as the political heat increases.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. He will reportedly tell committee members that 150 million Americans over 13 now have TikTok accounts. Data collection and moderation practices are expected to be discussed in the hearing. He will likely also discuss Oracle’s recent billion dollar hosting deal. Tech execs including Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have previously testified before the same committee.

Approximately half of all states already ban TikTok on state-owned devices. Indiana AG Todd Rokita will lead a lawsuit over the app’s privacy and mature content policies, he announced.

Among federal officials, FBI Director Christopher Wray called the app dangerous. News also broke last week that the Justice Department is investigating the app’s surveillance of American journalists as it tries to learn how they obtained leaked data.

Where People Visit Often … like really a lot

A TikTok ban would be highly unpopular with young voters.

  • Two-thirds of TikTok users in the U.S. are under 30.
  • TikTok usage among Gen Z exceeds Instagram usage.
  • 40% of TikTok users don’t use Facebook and 63% don’t use Twitter.

Pew Research reported last year that 10% of U.S. adults regularly get news from TikTok, up from 3% just two years ago. The average TikTok user spends a startling 95 minutes per day on the app, three times Facebook’s average.

Our Take On A TikTok Ban

We tell clients TikTok is a broadcast channel, not social media. Commenting and sharing are available, but TikTok’s engagement rates are 15% and dropping as users watch the videos sorted by an incredibly effective algorithm. Secondly, Netflix — that other big video viewing app — is TikTok’s biggest brand account.

Politicians will have to make a compelling argument to ban such a ubiquitous product enjoyed by so many voters between 18-30. The app has not been sold, despite Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle’s past interest in an acquisition. And so far there’s no smoking gun worth antagonizing half of voters under 30 as the 2024 presidential campaign begins in earnest.

3 More Stories to Know

1) A California appeals court said gig workers at Uber, Lyft, and similar companies can continue working as independent contractors. California officials have been seeking to reclassify drivers as employees, a move that industry says will increase prices.

2) Having secured his accounts on Twitter and Facebook, former President Donald Trump had access to his YouTube account restored last Friday. In 2020, the Trump campaign spent $89 million on Facebook and $56 million on Google properties. For now, the restored accounts will allow his campaign to advertise there again.3) In a powerful show of how bots work, Rolling Stone broke news that Twitter users who used the N-word or other terms were tweeted at by a bot offering cheap guns for sale.

 Waiting in the Wings

  • Our 3rd annual look at law enforcement technology
  • Protecting yourself from location data
  • What you can really do with those chatbots

Put your email address in the form at this link and you’ll get a free copy of Spotlight each Monday morning to start your week in the know.

Trends & Spends

Did That Really Happen? — Viral “PYREX” Post Is Untrue

This is usually where Politifact, the Associated Press, and media outlets address conspiracy theories, but the latest consumer story is worthy of your time. It seems that users on multiple networks have spread the story that “PYREX” cookware is better than “pyrex” branded cookware. Lifehacker debunks the claim complete with their wonderful snarkiness.

 Following Up — Another Bad Facial Recognition Arrest

We’ve written before about police misusing facial recognition software and obtaining arrest warrants for people who have never been in their jurisdiction. Now there’s word from Maryland that a man was arrested last year for assaulting a bus driver and stealing a phone on the basis of a facial recognition match. 

The man police mistakenly arrested is twenty years older and seven inches taller than the criminal.

Protip — TikTok Account Reset

Maybe you lingered too long over clips from a show or recipes and now TikTok serves up too much similar content for your liking. Here’s how to use the new reset button to see new content. 

Screening Room Northwell Health’s Ferocious Tiger

Science Fiction World — Marines Hide Under Box To Fool Robot

Robo-shaped dogs and cyborgs that can fire guns are scary sights, but a recent book describes how eight different Marines were able to fool a robot sentry by hiding under a cardboard box or somersaulting toward the robot using techniques the author called “straight out of a Looney Tunes episode.”

Coffee Break —  25 Tweets That Changed Things

This beautiful NYT interactive (no paywall for this piece) highlights good and bad tweets that helped shape our times: the pandemic, war, storms, birtherism, and more.

Sign of the Times

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