Washington, Brussels, Paris… ” Why does everyone want to ban TikTok? I love this app”, a young woman recently asked me during a debate.
To answer this legitimate generational question, I first recalled the words of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: “We need technologies that reflect our values and standards”.
Second, after several years of involvement in digital issues, I can say that, while we are fighting hard in Eastern Europe to protect our values, we cannot, on the internet, let platforms like TikTok process millions of pieces of information and use personal data of European citizens for sometimes dubious purposes.
As a member of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in the European Union’s democratic processes, I wonder about the possible Chinese interference that could happen via this application. It is essential to look into this further, especially when we know that this young platform already claims 1.7 billion active users.
Thus, echoing the philosopher Michel Serres who said that “the power of digital networks lies in their ability to connect individuals and groups across geographical barriers”, we politicians must, in order to face this power, engage our responsibility and ensure that these connections are used in an ethical and responsible manner.
But don’t get me wrong… Even if there are legitimate concerns about the potential influence of the Chinese government on this platform, I am not saying that TikTok is China’s Trojan horse in the Western world. This application is no more in the crosshairs than any other, but as a politician, I maintain that we have a duty to accept or reject all mobile applications suspected of being a threat to the security of our countries and democracies. Our European digital sovereignty is directly involved.
We must be lucid, we must be both didactic and clear to our citizens and explain to them that in a multi-polarised world, where interference and manipulation are unfortunately becoming commonplace, the power of social media platforms such as TikTok cannot and, above all, should not be underestimated.
We must warn them that the videos shared of cats and others on this platform could hide, in a Chinese shadow, a software that poses risks to the security of our states.
And even if, for the time being, we lack concrete data on uses that could be considered as malicious and clandestine of TikTok, it is clear that the platform already has a few scandals to its credit, one of the most recent of which highlighted the fact that, contrary to what they said, Chinese employees did have access to the data of American and European internet users.
In light of current geopolitical movements, we must warn our fellow citizens so that they are not unaware that TikTok could also be used for industrial espionage or to influence them. The public must know that the algorithms used in the West push rather narcissistic content, while the Chinese version offers videos intended to unite the individual in the service of the collective.
We, elected officials, must be aware of the implications of TikTok and its ability to influence our world. We must act to protect the security and privacy of our citizens, to prepare them for a cognitive war that has the sole purpose of intellectually undermining them. We cannot allow outside forces to influence us or compromise our core values. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to face it.
We must have courage. Our future, with its values and standards that are the essence of the European Union, depends on our unwavering desire to protect ourselves and our children from interference.
The European Democratic Party held an insightful Congress on the 13th of October 2023, in the historic city of Mainz, Germany. Not only did delegations from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and many other countries have come together to attend this important event, but it also served as a breeding ground for fundamental debates and innovative proposals that address the pressing issues of our era.
Hundreds of activists and political leaders congregated at Guidel over the course of the event. In the same way, as François Bayrou put it: “We believe that the goal of political action is to create a society in which the humanity in each of us flourishes.”, the high attendance of people not only signaled the party’s active role in national affairs but also the society’s interested in being involved in such context.