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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tried to get to the deeper issue of TikTok in her first post on the platform. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

AOC’s first TikTok is a call to the U.S. for more data and privacy protections from social media giants

Instead of banning the platform, which has gained momentum in recent weeks, she called for more protections for U.S. citizens from social media giants.

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has one of the largest social media followings of any public figure in the world, and on Friday night, March 24, the New York lawmaker took to TikTok for the first time.

The move to the world’s most popular short video platform came at the end of a week that saw TikTok take a beating on Capitol Hill, but Ocasio-Cortez was not about to pile on in the way many of her Democratic and Republican colleagues have in recent weeks.

Congress and the White House are seriously considering a nationwide ban on the platform over fears the Chinese government could force the Chinese company to provide troves of data on U.S. citizens that use the app. More than 150 million Americans use TikTok.

However, a ban is not the solution AOC envisions in her first TikTok. A ban she said, “doesn’t address the core issue,” which she lays out as the unfettered access tech giants — like TikTok, Meta, Google and more — have to Americans’ personal data, and their ability to pretty much do whatever they want with it without consequences or the users even knowing about it. 

Most use it to create personalized content to keep people on their platforms longer and drive up profit — and that manipulation has its own dark side — but there have also been more blatantly nefarious uses. 

Facebook giving data to police to target women who got abortions in states where it is no longer legal after Roe v. Wade is just one example with just a little bit of digging. AOC’s TikTok highlighted that same platform’s previous $725 million settlement alongside Cambridge Analytica, which bought personal data from Facebook in an attempt to blackmail politicians and influence elections. There were consequences in that case, but essentially nothing to stop it from happening again.

“In fact, the United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that has no significant data or privacy protection laws on the books,” the New York lawmaker said in her TikTok before citing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Established in 2016, the GDPR allows users of social media platforms to claim their data as their own and forces those same platforms to ask whether or not that data can be shared beyond what those users actively do on the platform. The GDPR model has since been used to establish similar data privacy laws in a number of countries across the world.

In her TikTok, Ocasio-Cortez advocated for a similar solution when it comes to the U.S.’s concerns over TikTok.

“To me, the solution here is not to ban an individual company, but to actually protect Americans from this kind of egregious data harvesting that companies can do without your significant ability to say no,” she said.

As of Sunday morning, March 26, the TikTok has been viewed over 3 million times and has more than half a million likes. AOC’s account, which spokesperson Lauren Hitt told the New York Times has existed for more than a year, but the lawmaker hadn’t used it before Friday.

 

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