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The student news site of Bernards High School

The Crimson

The student news site of Bernards High School

The Crimson

Social media app “TikTok” trial goes viral

Tik Tok is under investigation by Congress

In recent years, the social media app “TikTok” has skyrocketed in popularity. From its origin (branching from its parent social media app “”) in 2017 to now, the app has amassed over one billion users, located in over 150 countries. Each user curates their own personalized feed with the help of an algorithm that caters to their interests. Videos typically last for less than a minute, making it easy to get lost in a state of mindless scrolling. On the surface, TikTok is just another addition to an ever growing group of popular platforms however, recent action suggests that the app is more threatening than it seems and potentially worthy of a national ban.

Alarms about the app started to rise in 2020, when the Trump administration voiced their interest in banning it. In an executive order issued on August 6, 2020, Trump stated that, “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” Yet, any of his attempts to ban the app failed to pass, as U.S. judges raised concerns about freedom of speech and a lack of evidence. 

Recently, the TikTik CEO, Shou Zi Chew, was present in a hearing in Congress in which he was questioned about the app. The main points of contention were its security and safety.

Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rogers opened her case stating that “TikTok collects nearly every data point imaginable– from people’s location to what they type and copy, who they talk to, biometric data, and more.” After elaborating on the additional ways the app follows its users, she concluded, “TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned.”

The TikTok CEO responded by describing their plan for reducing the amount of data collection. He stated, “We’re deleting [the data sitting in our service] and we expect that to be complete this year. When that is done, all protected U.S. data will be under the protection of U.S. law, and under the control of the U.S. led security team. This eliminates the concern that some of you have shared with me: that TikTok user data is subject to Chinese law.” This quote, however, has caused some controversy online, as people begin to wonder why the company had access to the aforementioned data in the first place. 

The lawmakers also pressed Chew on the app’s involvement in mental health issues, especially revolving young adults on the app. One first asked what the required age was to be on the app, to which Chew responded that it was 13. With that established, many others began to speak on the censorship flaws in the app, claiming that users can fall victim to viewing videos showcasing self-harm and eating disorder content. They also credited a variety of different dangerous challenges which circulate on the app. Chew, as a response, stressed the action that is taken to restrict the amount of videos that violate the community guidelines.

Despite the serious subject matter of the hearing, the Congressional meeting has been viewed online mostly as a joke. Many of the clips which have gone viral on social media encapsulate the energy of the long winded trial, and shed light on a tough subject.

Some of the public favorite quotes from the trial include: “Does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?” and “Does TikTok support good– yes or no?” Additionally, a story involving two journalists whose data was, without consent, accessed by TikTok was brought up during the trial. When asked about the company’s methods of gathering the information, Chew stated: “I disagree with the characterization that it was ‘spying.’”

The biggest criticism and meme to emerge from the hearing was a video that was shown as “evidence” against the app. In an attempt to show the company’s failure to keep its users safe, a TikTok was shown on screen that depicted an animation of a gun being fired, with the caption “Me asf at the, House Energy and Commerce Committee on 3/23/2023.” The video (meant to be humorous) only had 475 likes at the time of showing, meaning that the woman had to search up videos under the hashtag “#cathymcmorrisrodgers” to find a video that seemed threatening enough to present in trial. After the video played, she exclaimed, “You expect us to believe that you are capable of maintaining the data security, privacy and security of 150 million Americans where you can’t even protect the people in this room.” The video of the court looking at the big screen has now transformed into a meme template, with people cropping their own TikToks over the real one.

The mixture of confusion, chaos, and utter ridiculousness that occurred in the trial made it seem to many, in the words of user “nelsonvazquez666” on TikTok, “a complete joke.” Yet, humor aside, a trial of this magnitude may foreshadow the future of the company. So far, the app has been banned in Montana, along with many different colleges and universities. If this pattern continues, who knows what might be in store for the widely popular app in a few years time. 

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