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Is TikTok Watching You?

2020.01

요약

중국의 모바일 영상 플랫폼인 ‘틱톡’은 15초짜리 짧은 영상으로 소통하는 SNS로 전 세계적으로 사용자가 급증하였다. 특히나 짧고 재미있는 것을 찾는 10대들에게 틱톡의 인기는 대단했다. 영국 일간 가디언에 따르면 틱톡은 재작년 상반기 애플 앱스토어에서 가장 많이 다운로드된 앱으로 꼽혔으며 이들의 인기는 한동안 사그라지지 않을 것 같았다. 하지만 최근 이들의 성장에 빨간불이 켜졌다. 지난해 하반기 들어 각종 보안 이슈가 터지고, 틱톡의 개인정보 처리 지침에 따라 위치정보 등 이용자들의 정보를 중국 정부와 공유하게 되어있다는 사실이 논란이 된 것이다. 중국 정책을 비판하는 컨텐츠들을 삭제 또는 배포 제한을 걸거나, 세계 각국의 정치인 관련 영상들을 검열하고 삭제하기도 했다. 또 장애인이나 다운증후군 환자 등에게 일부 영상을 제한하는 정책이 있다는 것이 밝혀져 논란은 가중되었다. 틱톡 측은 이와 같은 것들이 온라인 따돌림 등을 예방하기 위함이라고 해명했지만 아무 잘못이 없는 사람들의 소통을 미리 차단했다는 점에서 사람들은 많은 실망을 표하고 있다.


TikTok is a Chinese-owned viral video sharing app where users can post 15-second creative videos, ranging from cute to silly to downright confusing. Either way, the popularity of TikTok, especially among the youth, is undeniable—with over 500 million active users in 2018 alone. However, for the US government, the fact that the app is now owned by the Chinese company ByteDance spells trouble.

Generally, the US is concerned that America’s youth is exposed to the Communist Party indoctrination and that its user data is smuggled to Beijing’s servers. Alex Zhu, TikTok’s new chief after a merger, answered this allegation and several other accusations about the app. He insisted that they do not share any user data with China or with its Beijing-based parent company. According to him, all the data of the users worldwide is stored in Virginia and Singapore. He also denied speculations that TikTok censors videos that China will not be happy to see, such as commentaries about the government or any issues that concern the Communist Party. He also said that TikTok’s user data was segregated from the rest of ByteDance and was not used to improve ByteDance’s technology like its artificial intelligence.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is particularly looking into Chinese companies’ acquisition of other apps, in fear that Beijing might gain access to personal information. When asked what Mr. Zhu would do if Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, personally asked him to take down a video or provide user data, he instantly responded that he would turn him down.

However, just recently, a teenage girl was banned from the platform right after posting a video of a make-up tutorial. While curling her lashes, she also shared her opinion about the so-called “reeducation camps” for the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The camps have been points of human rights discussions because they allegedly held ethnic minorities there against their will. What made the controversial ban more confusing is that TikTok said in a statement that Feroza Aziz was suspended because of a video she posted on a previous account which contained a photo of Osama Bin Laden. Apparently, this was a violation of the Community Guidelines. The social app, later on, apologized for the mistake and gave Aziz’s account back. In a tweet, she said she did not believe TikTok would delete her account for a completely unrelated satirical video she removed on a previously deleted account right after posting a 3-part video commentary about the Uighurs.

In other social media platforms, thousands of creators have been banned for violating community guidelines. And a handful of them was banned right after commenting or reading memes about the Chinese government. Because of these instances, user experience seems to be compromised at a security level. Social media sites are supposed to provide us with a platform to connect with others and have fun, but right now, it feels like we are walking on eggshells.