Meta pays lobbyists for a possible TikTok ban

It seems that every time a new “it-girl” app comes around, older generations and politicians become overly skeptical. Teenagers spend too much time on their phones, their attention spans are getting shorter, and you need to care about this. But the truth is, everyone has a much higher screen time than they should. Since young people have always been generalized as lazy, stupid, and undisciplined, (remember articles like “millennials are ruining napkins” from 2016?) TikTok has been getting absurd amounts of flack from older people. In reality, social media sites are more similar than you may think, and Congress should use their time to fix tangible problems.

The reason why some people think TikTok should be banned, or bought by an American company, is that the Chinese Communist Party has used the app to spy on U.S. citizens. Yet we have not seen any evidence that TikTok has given China access to its data. However, the same Congress people that confuse China with Singapore would want you to think otherwise.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has been caught paying Targeted Victory, a Republican lobbying group, to decrease the public’s trust in TikTok. According to Taylor Lorenz at the Washington Post, Targeted Victory worked to convince Congress people that TikTok was more important than other issues on Capitol Hill. Part of their strategy was to increase the coverage of dangerous trends that primarily teenagers partook in. Maybe Meta thought that if TikTok never existed, the “devious licks” challenge would not exist on Facebook, when in actuality, the trend started on the latter.

If any social media company were to be a threat to national security for the U.S., it would be Facebook. In 2019, TechCrunch investigated Facebook’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) app Onavo, and found that from 2016 to 2019, the VPN was tracking activity from competing social media networks such as Snapchat and YouTube. Additionally, Facebook was paying users as young as 13 to use Onavo and analyze their unencrypted data. Users in the program had to sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to being told about Facebook’s involvement. While it has been five years since Onavo shut down, we are getting more information on this scheme from a lawsuit filed in California against Meta due to their shady market research practices.

Horrible things can be found in almost every corner of the internet, no matter the website or app you are searching on. That is what happens when we allow free speech in our country- that pizzagate conspiracy theory may seem weird to you or me, but it did not to Marjorie Taylor Greene, and that is why she was allowed to talk about it. The right to open our mouths and release breaths that sound like words does not stop, and should not stop, because Meta dislikes that another company has used similar ways to target ads. Whether we like it or not, people can be awful, and getting rid of a company or making it be owned by an American will not change that.