Mike Stone

Mostly The Lonely Howls Of Mike Baying His Ideological Purity At The Moon

TikTok Banned? Open Is Better

31 Jul 2020

Tonight, United States President Donald Trump announced that the popular video app TikTok would be banned in the US. This whole torrid affair is why open source and decentralization is just plain better.

If you haven’t heard the news, here is the link to the CNN article.

I don’t want to look at this from a political standpoint, or even really from the TikTok standpoint. I’m old, I don’t even really know what TikTok is, and frankly I don’t care much personally.

What I do want to look at (quickly) is how and why this whole thing is playing out.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. The current administration of the United States isn’t a huge fan of China, and is claiming that TikTok is a risk to national security. Of course, TikTok/ByteDance deny this claim.

Whether or not TikTok poses a risk to the United States isn’t the subject of this post. I’m more interested in how this is working out for the end users.

TikTok (whatever it is) is an extremely popular platform. In fact, some people have built careers out of making videos for it. Now, due to events entirely out of their control, it’s looking like all of this could potentially go away.

This is the exact reason we need social media platforms to move away from a centralized approach, and we need those platforms to be completely open source.

I’m a huge fan of Mastodon, and even though Mastodon is not a direct analog of TikTok, there are other projects that more closely echo its functionality.

None of these platforms are large enough to warrant attention by the Chinese government or the United States government, but if they were there could be no claim that they were a risk to national security because everybody can see what they’re doing in the code. Even if it was determined that they were a risk, it’s federated nature and use of open standards would make it almost impossible to block them fully in any country.

Whether you agree or disagree with the actions of the US government in the case of TikTok, it’s hard to argue that being at the whim of corporations or governments is the best situation to be in. It’s a perfect example of why we need to decentralize and open our social media applications.

Day 75 of the #100DaysToOffload Series.

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