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Lila Aktuel shows the great danger of Tiktok  Patrick Cronqvist

Lila Aktuel shows the great danger of Tiktok Patrick Cronqvist

Burner phones. This is the name given to prepaid mobile phones that are mainly used by criminals who do not want to be tracked or eavesdropped.

In recent years, they have also become popular at the TV House in Gardet in Stockholm.

Namely, SVT does not allow employees to install the Tiktok app on their work phones. The risk is considered too great for sensitive information to be leaked to the Chinese security apparatus.

But because newsrooms like Lilla Aktuellt still want to connect with young Swedes who use the app, they have purchased a number of phones that are used solely for uploading clips to Tiktok.

Public service companies equipped with special “feature phones” seek likes among children – a good example of the Western world’s ambiguous attitude towards Tiktok.

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Sell ​​Tiktok, otherwise the app will be banned in the US.

This is the meaning of the law signed by President Joe Biden last week. Chinese owner Bytedance is giving nine months to find a new owner for the popular video app.

The procedure is not entirely unique. But it attests to a shift in views about the access of authoritarian regimes to free markets in the West.

For a long time, democracies have had a self-confident vision of their social model. Dictatorships of various kinds were welcome to fund religious institutions, publish newspapers, and buy television stations here, although it is inconceivable that Western companies and groups would do the same there.

We believed that our open societies would still triumph in the end.

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In this way, Tiktok has managed to become the most popular social media platform among young people in the West – despite American competitors such as Instagram, YouTube, Google and Facebook being banned in China.

But the openness of the Western world turned against us. Not just on social media, where armies of foreign trolls seek to polarize the public, influence elections, and ensure fake news spreads like wildfire. In addition, mosques disseminate fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, while state-controlled television channels broadcast propaganda, and fringe parties receive generous loans from abroad.

In the event of twilight, the Chinese Communist Party will not hesitate to use this power.

In the discussion, the focus was generally on Russian influence attempts. The Chinese Communist Party's massive efforts to force other countries into submission are rarely talked about.

The regime in Beijing uses every tool you can think of, and more.

He pressures Hollywood companies to rewrite their scripts, punishes publishers who publish critical books, silences dissidents abroad by threatening their relatives in China, and initiates a procurement boycott against companies when employees say something critical of China. He bribes Western politicians, infiltrates parliaments, and puts businessmen from unsavory countries in prison. And so on and so on.

It's this creative — and destructive — system that ultimately takes over TikTok, even if the company's Swedish speech funnels would have you think otherwise. Chinese citizens and companies are required by law to provide information to security services.

This is why countless authorities and defense forces around the world – such as SVT – are forcing their employees to delete the app. The risk of it being used for spying is very high.

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But the biggest risk facing Tiktok is the popularity of the app. Despite the security risks, SVT still feels compelled to publish content on the platform, as this newspaper does. Perhaps this is a wise assessment.

In just eight years, Tiktok has managed to become the first social media to seriously challenge American internet giants in the West. It is also becoming an increasingly important platform for forming news and opinions – especially for young people. Tik Tok depends Internet Foundation The main news source for Swedish children, along with the regular TV channels. The pattern is similar in many other countries.

This gives Tiktok a huge influence on Western minds. However, how to use this power is shrouded in mystery. In the past, it has been revealed how the service's moderators censor clips critical of China's treatment of Uyghurs.

However, since each user receives a unique feed, it is very difficult to prove whether algorithms favor certain materials for political reasons.

But in practice, the possibilities are endless. In a close election campaign, TikTok could feature more negative clips about a candidate who wants to challenge China on foreign policy. In the face of a decision on a new arms package for Ukraine, pro-Russian clips could be better disseminated. And so on and so on.

Admittedly, fake news and large-scale attempts to influence information are big problems on other platforms as well. But here it is about a hostile regime controlling the infrastructure itself. In the event of twilight, the Chinese Communist Party will not hesitate to use this power. To believe otherwise is naive and indefensible.

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The West should not radically change its social model. Openness is our strength. But we must be prepared to defend it.

So reciprocity is a reasonable principle. Companies and organizations from countries with freedom of the press and religion should of course be able to run newspapers, launch social media and open gatherings here. But if the effect is only supposed to go in one direction, we must draw a clear line.

Therefore, Sweden and the European Union should follow the US lead and ban Tiktok.

Patrick Cronqvist is political editor and head of the editorial page at Expressen. Read more of his texts here.

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