It lures America’s children into content filled with self-harm, eating disorders, and mental illness, all while collecting their data.
So why is TikTok still on the phones of billions of users?
According to a report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate Wednesday, users as young as 13 are being directed toward disturbing content within minutes of logging into the app for the first time.
Researchers set out to test TikTok’s algorithms by creating fake accounts in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia posing as 13-year-olds interested in mental health and body image.
Within 2.6 minutes of scrolling on the “For You” feed on the app, they were directed toward accounts with suicide content. It took only eight minutes to be directed toward content on eating disorders.
In fact, they found that a new user who “views and likes content about body image and mental health will be recommended that content every 39 seconds.”
Considering that two-thirds of America’s teenagers use the app and that the average user spends 80 minutes per day, these kids are being bombarded with hundreds of messages per week.
However, the most disturbing fact seems to be that “vulnerable teen accounts” are being particularly targeted for more harmful content.
When an account was entered with the phrase “lose weight,” the test users were shown “3 times as many harmful videos as standard teen accounts” and “12 times as many self-harm videos as standard teen accounts.”
This fact and many suspicions about how the app can be used to manipulate the populace have put TikTok in the crosshairs of the federal government.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced legislation to ban the app, with Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin calling the TikTok “digital fentanyl.”
“Tiktok should be banned,” Gallagher said on Fox News earlier this month.
“Senator Marco Rubio and I have legislation that does exactly that,” he added. “TikTok is digital fentanyl.”
“This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day,” Sen. Marco Rubio said about the Senate bill.
“We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China,” the Florida Republican added.
“There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company,” Rubio said.
“It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good.”
The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Brendan Carr has also set his sights on the app this week, all but promising that it will be banned.
“I think at the end of this week, really the fundamental question has changed,” Carr told Fox Business News Wednesday.
“It’s no longer whether TikTok is going to be banned, in terms of its current operations in the U.S., but a question of when.”
The social media platform’s days may be numbered as the government mulls banning it outright, but perhaps not soon enough.
There has been a targeted assault on the innocence of America’s children that’s largely being waged online, if not at least fueled by the content kids are consuming there.
While parents have the responsibility to monitor their children’s online activity and to prevent them from taking in harmful content. TikTok is a different problem than most.
It is engineered to be attractive to teens and to manipulate them through artificial intelligence in ways that they — and even their parents — may not be aware is even happening.
TikTok certainly does not belong in the hands of children, but perhaps lawmakers are correct that it doesn’t belong in the U.S. at all.
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