Thoughts on TikTok

Thoughts on TikTok

Updated: The current attention to TikTok appears to be largely politically motivated from the Trump administration, so please fact-check all assessments on this topic.

TikTok’s sister app – Douyin – is only available within The Great Firewall of China but seems to retain a number of similarities (unconfirmed directly). However one of the key issues are such things as deep fakes propagated on the platform, prior to the evidence collected in an analysis done on the apps traffic and reverse-engineered codebase.

Love it or hate it you cannot deny that the platforms meteoric success generated massive popularity of the mobile app. Content on the app emerged from it’s lip sync-ing origins into staged comedy and more, gaining more and more popularity.

Extrapolations from the codebase are more difficult due to the obfuscation used, so some of the guesses in this area are trickier to confirm. However those inferences are backed up by behavioural analysis done on the calls made by the app in sandbox environments by Talal Bakry and Tommy Mysk.

Firstly suspicion is raised because the app checks the clipboard frequently – bear in mind that this is not a word processor or IM platform so there are very few reasons why this action could be justified.

Whilst unconfirmed there is some anecdotal evidence of concern relating to a U.S. lawsuit filed in California. The claimant in lawsuit states that TikTok created a user profile without her permission and without any action from her, alleging that the firm sent all sorts of PII back to China. Whilst this case is ongoing and there is no preliminary finding and due to the fact that TikTok has removed content offensive to the Chinese government, it appears that the platform has the capability to lock out devices belonging to those posting content it feels inappropriate.

In the case of Feroza Aziz there is a debate to be had on whether a string of previous content was appropriate – there’s too little information to make a judgement. However on balance it does appear that TikTok moderation is far more heavy-handed than US platforms such as Facebook.

That being said, we could also theorise that the current global political and economic climate – combined of course with the anti-China rhetoric from the U.S. administration – is the largest driver of the efforts to find problems with the platform.

That being said, I’ve built a mechanism to block TikTok from your network based on Debian Linux and unbound (combined with an appropriate configurations for your wireless and edge routers). The script could easily be modified for PiHole-based DNS (FTLDNS), although I suspect PiHole may add TikTok-based blocks in the near future.

You can read about that blocking mechanism here.

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