Discover more from The Dakota Scout
My bill to block the Tok (Guest op-ed)
Tick Clock? Talk Tok? TikTok? “Which is it?”
That was my question to staff when asked if it was a platform I’d want to join. They weren’t very excited about adding yet another app to our list of social media platforms to keep up with, but it felt unavoidable given its popularity.
We didn’t get very far into our discussion. Someone chimed in, “We can’t get that app – China’s running it.” Other staffers gave a quick “OK boomer” look. Our team continued busting his chops on his resolute anti-TikTok attitude. It was a running joke—until it wasn’t.
The concern about China’s access to TikTok data isn’t new. President Trump sought to ban the app in the U.S. in 2020, but TikTok provided sworn testimony assuring Americans their data was safely stored here at home, free from the hands of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party.
The Dakota Scout is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support a locally owned and operated newspaper, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Leaked audio from internal meetings at TikTok tells a different story: “Everything is seen in China.”
In June, Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Brendan Carr sounded alarm bells following reports of TikTok’s nearly unfettered access to American’s most personal data. The Chinese government sees it all – passwords, crypto wallets, keystrokes, draft text messages, internet searches, and everything in between. Oh, and they’ve got your voice and facial ID, too.
In the digital age, most of us have grown accustomed to our data being bought and sold. Facebook and Twitter sell our data every day. But I listened to a podcast recently that made a solid point: U.S. companies use our data according to our laws to make a profit, China uses our data to advance their communist agenda.
This isn’t the first time a Chinese-linked company has been accused of improper practices. In 2019, the administration banned Chinese telecommunications company Huawei after years of suspected Intellectual Property (IP) theft and national security concerns.
Many private businesses and agencies in our government have stepped up to the plate to protect their employees and our country from TikTok by banning it on company property or devices. I think Congress should take it a step further – that’s why I’m introducing the Block the Tok Act.
Block the Tok would do several things. First, and probably most importantly, it would block the download and use of TikTok on all government devices. This is a commonsense step. Second, it would prohibit the use of TikTok at U.S. military installations, national security agencies, and intelligence agencies regardless of whether the app is being used on a personal device.
Third, it would prohibit TikTok from accessing user data of U.S. citizens from within China. Finally, the Block the Tok Act would instruct the Federal Trade Commission to initiate an investigation into TikTok’s ongoing deception of their invasive data collection practices.
TikTok has more than one billion users worldwide. The users you won’t find on that list? Chinese citizens. That should tell us a lot about the risk of this platform. They have their own app to conform with China’s constant surveillance.
Block the Tok is about more than simply blocking an app. It prohibits China from accessing sensitive and personal data of American citizens. China is ramping up its communist, anti-America agenda. Its stated goal is to replace the United States as the world’s superpower. Let’s not naively help them for a few viral lip-sync and dance videos. The clock is ticking, Congress needs to block China from accessing our personal data, and we need to do it now.