Media Mention

Robert Chesney: TikTok and the Law

August 2, 2020

Note: This piece was originally published in Lawfare, and was written by Checks & Balances member Robert Chesney.

TikTok is in serious trouble, and teenagers across the land are demanding answers about the legal frameworks at issue. Well, maybe they are not exactly focused on the legal issues. But in case you are, here’s an explainer.

1. What is TikTok, and why is it in the news?

Never used TikTok? It is an acquired taste, but it is addictively entertaining once you acclimate to it. In brief, it’s a video-hosting app for user-generated content. It’s a bit like a social-media-inflected Youtube in that sense.

But the videos on TikTok are almost entirely super-short (15 second) amateur clips, with lots of content made by and for teens (at least that’s how it is in the US market; I’m less sure if the same is true in other major TikTok markets). Like any other social-media app featuring user-generated content, most of the clips are less-than-compelling, but there’s plenty of brilliant stuff too (I’m particularly attached to the clips where a teen pretends to be a dad spouting clichés at his family during a road trip, every word of which I’ve actually spouted at my family during a road trip).

So what’s the problem? TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that is subject to China’s laws and other forms of coercion. This has given rise to two lines of concern.

Continue reading at Lawfare.

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