Sen. Thom Tillis came out hard against video-sharing platform TikTok on Monday, signing a letter along with hard-assed Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw and 14 other Republicans in the General Assembly that asks for a ban on the app, owned by a Chinese company, by all members of the US House and Senate.

It comes on the heels of a Congressional hearing where TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew tried to explain what the app does and how it does it to people who don’t understand the very fundamentals of digital technology.

To illustrate: Most of what the members of Congress asked Chew about were true. Yes, TikTok collects data on all of its users, like location and device, but also more intimate details like income, home values, shopping habits and other points that it then analyzes through “psychographic” identifiers like “middle-aged mom caring for elderly parents” or “DIY homeowner due for a new lawnmower” or maybe even “right-wing gun nut who buys ammunition online.”

Just about every other app and website does this. The New York Times captures audience data just as thoroughly as Fox News. Amazon knows more about you than you yourself might. Facebook’s data-collection practices are legendary. Even we do it, through cookies on our website.

Does TikTok have connections with China’s communist government? Almost certainly! China is ruled under a one-party dictatorship! The government is involved in everything!

But most of the data collected by TikTok is commercially available. Through device tagging and IP mapping, every digital-marketing company in the world knows your age, where you work and live, how much you owe on your car. The Chinese government doesn’t need TikTok to know if you have an OnlyFans account. The vast, global digital-marketing apparatus already knows.

So what Tillis and his hard-right pals are really worried about are TikTok’s numbers. The app has more than 150 million US users — that’s about as many people as voted in the 2020 presidential election — most of them younger than your average Republican and diverse enough to freak the white folks out.

The people who have no real comprehension of “the internet” and its implications have already banned TikTok on government devices, because they think it is reading their texts. Meanwhile other politicians are harnessing the app to find audiences heretofore unreachable through other means — notably NC Rep. Jeff Jackson, who’s amassed 1.7 million followers on the app and has been using it to explain things like the “abortion pill” mifepristone (5.3 million views) and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (29.1 million views).

That’s what they want to stop.

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