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(Source: Journal of Democracy. NED)

The Threat of TikTok to Democracy

TikTok, owned by the Chinese tech firm ByteDance, surpassed one-billion active global users in 2021. Aynne Kokas, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of the new book Trafficking Data: How China Is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty (2022), warns us in an article in the Journal of Democracy that every activity on TikTok is being carefully collected and tracked.

The author describes Beijing’s continued information gathering as China’s “national data corpus” and it “enhances the government’s population-tracking initiatives and the development of new artificial intelligence (AI)–driven municipal-management tools while also creating a ‘national body’ grounded in data.” She states that tech platforms like TikTok “have outsized influence in developed democracies, especially when spreading election-related misinformation and disinformation. China’s digital-governance practices demonstrate the distinctive ways in which popular commercial platforms such as TikTok and WeChat serve as critical communications channels that, under Beijing’s oversight, can shape the discourse in democracies.”

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