China’s TikTok might as well be designed as a weapon against our teens
America’s kids are falling behind, far surpassed by China in education, but it’s no wonder, given the steady diet of toxic social media and divisive gender- and race-obsessed materials they’re bombarded with daily.
US students ranked eighth in reading, 11th in science and a dismal 30th in math in the most recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment, an exam testing 15-year-olds every three years.
Mainland China bested every other country in all three subject areas out of all the 79 countries tested.
Why is this happening?
No doubt in large part because more than half of Gen Zers spend four or more hours on social media every single day, per a December 2022 survey from business-intelligence company Morning Consult.
The survey also found 93% of boys ages 13 to 25 in the United States have YouTube accounts, and 62% are on Chinese-owned TikTok, while 84% of young women are active YouTube users and 75% have TikTok accounts.
What are they watching?
The Post’s Asia Grace investigated, posing as a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl on Youtube and TikTok.
As a teen girl, Grace was fed a toxic algorithmic diet of content glamorizing underage binge drinking, violence against women and memes about depression and mental illnesses.
This no doubt impacted the results of a disturbing government report last month showing most teen girls (57%) felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, double the rate for teen boys (29%). Nearly one in three teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide.
The algorithms provided Grace, when she was pretending to be a teen boy, with online personality Andrew Tate laughing at the thought of stoning a Muslim woman to death for standing up to her husband, as well as content discussing killing orphans and hanging black people.
What’s telling is that in China, a different version of TikTok doesn’t show kids these things.
But here in America, TikTok seems happy to poison the minds of American kids.
Of course, it’s not just China and TikTok; it’s also American-owned Google’s YouTube.
Even without any government oversight, the people behind the American social-media companies should take a hard look at what they’re doing to our children with algorithms.
But overall, The Wall Street Journal and others have observed the nature of the algorithms is far darker for TikTok than Instagram, for example, in terms of pushing videos that encourage an obsession with mental illness and addiction to porn, and violence.
“It’s almost like they recognize that technology is influencing kids’ development, and they make their domestic version a spinach version of TikTok, while they ship the opium version to the rest of the world,” Tristan Harris, a former Google employee and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, told “60 Minutes.”
Harris said the Chinese version of TikTok serves children at-home science experiments, museum exhibits, patriotism videos and educational videos. He added that children in China were limited to only 40 minutes a day on the app.
FBI Director Chris Wray in December flagged national-security fears over TikTok, saying he’s worried that Chinese government officials’ power over the app’s recommendation algorithm “allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.”
Wray said China could very well collect TikTok user data and exploit it for traditional espionage operations.
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Wray said.
There is no limit to Chinese attempts to degrade and destroy Western civilization. Given everything we know about China, it would be strange to assume that they would not use TikTok for psychological warfare, known as psychological operations or psych ops, against the American people.
“The Information Age provides unparalleled ability to influence both a nation’s leaders and its population,” Dean Cheng, a former Heritage Foundation fellow and China expert wrote.
“The core of the Chinese concept of psychological warfare is to manipulate those audiences by affecting their thought processes and cognitive frameworks. In doing so, Beijing hopes to be able to win future conflicts without firing a shot — victory realized through a combination of undermining opponents’ wills and inducing maximum confusion.”
American parents need greater vigilance over their kids’ social-media usage.
Algorithms can’t control kids if parents don’t allow social media to babysit them.
Their children’s future, and American competitiveness, is at stake.
Carrie Sheffield is a senior fellow at Independent Women’s Voice.