Republican Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher spoke up recently in order to compare TikTok to a form of “digital fentanyl” as efforts expand to issue the app a wholesale ban in the U.S.
This past Sunday on a segment of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gallagher put the Chinese-owned social media platform on blast for the extremely negative effect it has had on young kids and teens all over the United States, and the grossly large amounts of data that the app is collecting to send back to China. He has reached out to members of congress in hope of securing a ban against the app nationwide.
“I think the comparison is apt for at least two reasons,” stated Gallagher. “One, it’s highly addictive and destructive and we’re seeing troubling data about the corrosive impact of constant social media use, particularly on young men and women here in America.”
“It’s also digital fentanyl in the sense that, as you allude to, it ultimately goes back to the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok is owned by ByteDance; ByteDance is effectively controlled by the CCP. So, we have to ask whether we want the CCP to control what is on the cusp of becoming the most powerful media company in America,” exclaimed Gallagher. “That is very troubling. And so, I was glad to see my colleagues in the Senate pass, in unanimous fashion, a ban of TikTok on government devices. I think we should do the same in the House and expand that ban nationally.”
Gallagher then highlighted a laundry list of safety issues he currently held with TikTok — most notably that the government in China could easily make use of the technology to access and then save copious amounts of sensitive data from American citizens. He also spoke about his worries that the Chinese could end up using the app to filter the types of information that was getting through to the American public that made use of the app, making the argument that this could be bad especially if their exposure to other forms of news was limited, they might not be getting the correct information.
“I’m concerned about TikTok’s ability to track your location, track your keystrokes, track what websites you’re visiting, even when you’re not using the app. I’m concerned about the lack of transparency around the algorithm which is addicting kids,” he stated. “But I think what’s more pernicious is the fact that, since a lot of young men and women in America increasingly turn to TikTok to get news, what if they start censoring the news, right? What if they start tweaking the algorithm to determine what the CCP deems fit to print? That’s incredibly dangerous. That’s as if, in 1958, we allowed the KGB and Pravda to buy The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post. That actually probably understates the threat. I think it’s a multi-pronged threat we need to look at.”
Gallagher plucked the phrase “digital fentanyl” from a statement issued by Brendan Carr, a former FCC Commissioner, who made use of it to describe the app in an interview held back in November on Fox News.