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The US Navy, and Army ban TikTok for fears of national security risks

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Tiktok is a fun app until you realize the data goes to almost directly to a foreign government, it actually makes sense the US Navy wants to ban it’s use.

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US Navy on deck

It’s no surprise that the more connected we are, the harder it becomes to keep something secret. For instance, Amazon’s Echo makes the perfect spying device and the fitness app Strava accidentally revealed the locations of military bases. And then there’s TikTok, the highly popular social media app that also happens to be under the thumb of the Chinese government.

Which is why the US Navy is reportedly banning TikTok from all government issued devices, both abroad and at home.

At first glance, this might seem like the military is going overboard. After all, TikTok is an extremely popular and widespread app made for sharing funny 15 second videos. Not to mention, the US Navy isn’t banning other popular social media apps. What makes being owned by China such a big deal?

A lot, actually.

TikTok has already been under fire for censoring material that the Chinese government opposes – which is everything from mentions of Tiananmen Square to LGBT issues. There are also fears of what could happen with TikTok storing user’s data, although TikTok has been working to store American data on American soil.

That said, with TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, residing in China, it is still beholden to the Chinese government.

When it comes to the US Navy, it’s not the censorship that’s worrisome, it’s the data. Sure, no average person wants their data to be leaked or stolen. But there are major potential repercussions when it’s part of the United States military and the information is going directly to a foreign government. At best this information could contain things like demographics, average schedules and locations, but at worst, it might very well reveal more damning secrets.

So far, the US Navy was the first branch of the U.S. military to ban TikTok outright, although Army cadets were first told not to use the app; After some urging from the pentagon the whole branch has banned TikToks use As of right now, it’s unclear if other government agencies will follow suit.

As technology becomes more integrated in our lives – and more complicated – it’s likely we will have to start making more tough calls like this in the future. After all, you never know what seemingly innocuous app could be causing damage on a personal, or even national, scale.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

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Social Media

Instagram teases “take a break” feature: Is it true or another PR stunt?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) In an attempt to rectify their reputation, Instagram teases the newest safety feature – “take a break” – to nudge teens from harmful content.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health."

The knowledge that social media – especially in excess – can be harsh on mental health is not something learned from the recent Facebook whistleblower; we’ve known for a long time and so has Facebook and Instagram.

And now to pretend that they care about such harshness, Instagram has introduced a “take a break” feature (I’m both rolling my eyes and singing the “Hamilton” song of the same name). The announcement of the feature came from Facebook’s vice president, Nick Clegg, during a CNN address a week after the whistleblower drama came to the forefront. Clegg said,

“We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that a teenager is looking at the same content over and over again, and it’s content which may not be conducive to their well being, we will nudge them to look at other content” 

Instagram app on Apple app store.

He said the social media company plans to introduce a feature “called ‘take a break,’ where we will be prompting teens to just simply take a break from using Instagram.” This is in addition to pausing plans for an Instagram Kids platform and giving parents optional controls to supervise teens.

There is currently no information available on a timeline, which may further the point that this is just a PR tactic to deflect from the issue at hand – that they had data proving the harms of social media and chose to bury the information. Last month, Instagram posted a blog about the Instagram Kids pause and information on children and teens using the internet.

It could be argued that the “nudge to look at other content” is simply another in a series of distractions that somehow keeps people using social media in copious amounts. The fact that there is hardly any information on the feature is suspicious and hardly a bandage for a bullet wound.

If it even ever comes to fruition, it will likely be one of Facebook’s many trials and errors. Based on last year’s documentary shocker “The Social Dilemma,” it is clear that social media users are simply dollar signs in the eyes of those at the top.

Instagram mobile login page.

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Social Media

Why Trump’s lawsuit against social media still matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Former President Trump snagged headlines for suing every large social media platform, and it has gone quiet, but it still deeply matters.

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It was splashed across headlines everywhere in July: Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against social media platforms that he claims unrightfully banned him during and after the fallout of the January 6th capitol riots. The headlines ran for about a week or so and then fell off the radar as other, fresher, just-as-juicy news headlines captured the media’s eye.

Many of us were left wondering what that was all about and if anything ever became of it. For even more of us, it probably passed out of our minds completely. Lack of public awareness for these things is common after the initial media blitz fades.

Lawsuits like these in the US can take months, if not years between newsworthy milestones. The most recent news I could find as of this publishing is from August 24, 2021, on Yahoo! News from the Washington Examiner discussing the Trump camp’s request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

This particular suit shouldn’t be left to fade from memory in the shadows though, and here’s why:

In the past few years, world powers have been reigning in regulations on social media and internet commerce. The US is actually a little behind the curve. Trump may have unwittingly given us a source of momentum to get with the times.

In the European Union, they have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), widely acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most thorough privacy laws in the world, a bold title. China just passed its own pair of laws in the past four months: The Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and The Personal Information Law, set to take effect November 1st. The pair is poised to give the GDPR a run for its money for that title.

Meanwhile, in the US, Congress has been occupied with other things and, while there are five bills that took aim at tech monopoly currently on the table and a few CEOs had to answer some questions, little actual movement or progress has been made on making similar privacy protections a thing in the United States.

Trump’s lawsuit, while labeled by many as a toothless public relations move, may actually create momentum needed to push regulation of tech and social media forward in the US. The merits of the case are weak and ultimately the legislation that would give it teeth doesn’t exist yet.

You can’t hold tech companies accountable to a standard that doesn’t properly exist in law.

However, high profile attention and someone willing to continue to make noise and bring attention back to the subject, one of Trump’s strongest talents, could be “just what the doctor ordered” to inspire Congress to make internet user rights and data privacy a priority in the US, finally.

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Even solopreneurs are doing live commerce online – it’s not just QVC’s game anymore

(SOCIAL MEDIA) When you think of watching a show and buying things in real time, it invokes thoughts of QVC, but social media video has changed all that.

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live commerce

After the year everyone has had, one wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that humanity wants a break from live streaming. They would, however, be wrong: Live online commerce – a method of conversion first normalized in China – is the next evolution of the ubiquitous e-commerce experience, which means it’s something you’ll want on your radar.

Chinese company, Alibaba first live streamed on an e-commerce site in 2016, allowing buyers to watch, interact with, and buy from sellers from the comfort of their homes. In 2020, that same strategy netted Alibaba $7.5 billion in presale revenue – and it only took 30 minutes, according to McKinsey Digital.

But, though western audiences have proven a desire to be just as involved with sellers during the buying process, live commerce hasn’t taken off here the way it has elsewhere. If e-commerce merchants want to maximize their returns in the next few years, that needs to change.

McKinsey Digital points out a couple of different benefits for organizations using live commerce, the main one being an influx in traffic. Live streaming events break the buying experience mold, and consumers love being surprised. You can expect that prospective buyers who wouldn’t necessarily visit your store under normal circumstances would find value in attending a live event.

Live events also keep people on your site for longer, resulting in richer conversion opportunities.

The sense of urgency inherent in in-person shopping doesn’t always translate to online markets, but having a stream showing decreasing inventory or limited-availability items being sold inspires people to act expeditiously rather than sitting on a loaded cart–something that can kill an e-commerce conversion as quickly as it starts one.

There are a ton of different ways to incorporate live events into your e-commerce campaigns. Virtual auctions are popular, as are markets in which individual sellers take buyers through inventory. However, the live event could be tangentially related–or even just something impressive running in parallel with the sale–and still bring in a swell of revenue.

Screen fatigue is real, and there isn’t a true substitute for a brick-and-mortar experience when done correctly. But if you have an e-commerce shop that isn’t utilizing some form of live entertainment–even just to bring in new buyers–you’re going to want to try this strategy soon.

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