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7 Reasons TikTok Is Bad for Everyone

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With more than 1 billion monthly users, it is fair to say that TikTok has taken the world by storm since its launch in September 2016.

But like so many social media apps, it's not all rosy. TikTok has a dark side that might make you think twice about using the app.

Here are seven reasons that TikTok is bad for everyone.

1. Chinese Influence

While it would be unfair to tar all Chinese apps with the same brush, it is an undeniable fact that TikTok has endured more than its fair share of controversies that can be traced back to its Chinese owners, ByteDance.

Here's a summary of some of these controversies:

  • TikTok has been removed from Hong Kong following the recent issues surrounding the region.
  • Anyone in mainland China whose cell provider is China Mobile, China Telecom, or China Unicom cannot use the app.
  • The US government came within a whisker of banning TikTok in America in August 2020 after then-president, Donald Trump, said he had evidence that showed ByteDance "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States."
  • India banned TikTok in June 2020 after the government said it was "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, and public order."

2. TikTok Is Bad for Your Brain

TikTok's format of short videos has been linked to decreased attention spans when the app is used for more than 90 minutes a day.

The problem became so severe that TikTok was forced to take action. It hired influencers such as Gabe Erwin, Alan Chikin Chow, James Henry, and Cosette Rinab to ask users to take breaks, and created pop-up warnings to encourage users to stop scrolling.

While using an app that harms your brain is not a good idea for anyone, the issue is particularly pertinent on TikTok due to its demographics. More than 60 percent of users are under 24, a period of time in which the human brain is still not fully developed.

3. Censorship

TikTok moderation is a mess, with censorship rife across the platform.

For instance, the problem surrounding the removal of tags has led some already marginalized communities to become even more excluded. Users who protested racism in their videos reported a drop in popularity of their other content. There is no list of banned words or phrases. And it is unclear whether the mod team is run by AI or by humans.

And if you think all this is hearsay, think again. In March 2020, The Intercept got its hands on some internal TikTok documents that said moderators needed to suppress posts by users who were "too ugly, poor, or disabled". The problem is getting worse, not better.

4. Don't Try This at Home

Social media "challenges" are nothing new. Many of them are harmless fun and often raise money for a good cause. Who could forget classics such as the "ice bucket challenge" or the "mannequin challenge"?

However, some of them stray into dangerous territory, and this is where things get worrying. "Planking" was one of the early trendsetters, with people putting themselves in vulnerable positions (such as atop skyscrapers or on train tracks) just to grab an image for Instagram.

TikTok has taken the idea of dangerous challenges to new extremes. The "penny challenge" (in which you drop a penny between a wall socket and a plug) has started house fires, while the "skull breaker challenge" involves intentionally tripping people up. Nasty injuries have been reported.

There is also the "devious licks" challenge. The challenge encourages students to steal or vandalize school property. Several students have been arrested, and schools have been forced to spend money on fixing broken property.

All of this makes TikTok entirely inappropriate for kids, and yet they keep using the app.

5. Data Collection

For better or worse, most users now accept that all the apps on our phones track us in some way. But while social media has always been one of the worst culprits, TikTok's data collection techniques are particularly dystopian.

In its privacy policy, TikTok says that it collects the "information you provide in the context of composing, sending, or receiving messages." Yup—TikTok can actively watch what you are writing in messages to friends, even if you never hit the send button.

It also requests access to your phone's model, screen resolution, current OS, phone number, email address, location, keystroke patterns, and even contact lists. None of that seems important if you just want to watch 15-second clips.

It's no exaggeration to say that TikTok is a danger to your privacy.

6. Security Issues

Many security researchers have found security vulnerabilities in the TikTok app.

They range from hackers using SMS messages to gain unauthorized access to accounts, through to issues surrounding the use of HTTP and HTTPS when delivering videos.

7. Worrisome Content

There is no shortage of research that proves how bad social media is for your mental health.

The toll on your brain comes in many forms. You'll find ample cases of the usual social media scourges—harassment, abuse, and cyberbullying.

But the problem runs deeper. For example, many younger users have uploaded sexually provocative content, while there have also been cases of ex-partners attempting to ruin their previous partners' lives by uploading videos and photos from their old relationships.

This has real-world consequences for users. In Egypt, five women have been sentenced to two years in prison for "violating public morals" in their TikTok videos.

Sadly, there is also a never-ending stream of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. There have even been cases of ISIS using the platform to promote their extremist propaganda.

All these issues can lead you on a path you don't want to go down. Don't put yourself in these positions unnecessarily.

Delete TikTok Today

Back in 2018, the #DeleteFacebook movement took hold as users protested some of the company's ulterior motives and suspicious practices.

But while Facebook is no angel and unquestionably deserves to be under the spotlight for the decisions it has taken in recent years, TikTok is a whole lot worse.

The bottom line is quite simple. You should not have an account, you should not have the app on your phone, and you should not encourage other users to sign up.

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