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  Opinion   Columnists  29 Mar 2024  Farrukh Dhondy | Getting the news from TikTok and social media: Will bid to ban work?

Farrukh Dhondy | Getting the news from TikTok and social media: Will bid to ban work?

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Mar 30, 2024, 12:03 am IST
Updated : Mar 30, 2024, 12:03 am IST

TikTok Ban Controversy Sparks Debate Over Free Speech and Foreign Ownership

Controversy swirls around TikTok as political interests clash over free speech and foreign ownership. (AA File Image)
 Controversy swirls around TikTok as political interests clash over free speech and foreign ownership. (AA File Image)

“Dogs in our alley

Are treated like kings by all

No thief dare come near

The cats who live here

Don’t bother the rats or mice

Truce has been declared

The blind man who sits

All day under the neem tree

Singing the same song”

From Kaiku Haiku, by Bachchoo

For many decades of my short and happy life, gentle reader, I believed that TikTok was the infantile representation of the sound that clocks make. And now i am disabused of this notion as I discover that it is in fact, according to some American and British media, a sinister social-exchange platform owned indirectly by the Communist Party of China to subvert the minds of millions of Western youngsters and even gullible oldies.

A recent American poll concludes that the majority of teenagers and young people get their news and comments on current affairs from TikTok. I must admit I am, in regard to the social media, what another generation calls a “dinosaur” (my favourite species name, when I acknowledge being such, would be “Ithinkeesaurus”) -- like Britain’s foreign secretary David Cameron who is reputed to have concluded that “LOL” meant Lots of Love.

Following the statistic alleging that young people in America get their news and views from TikTok, there has been a move in the Senate and the House of Representatives to ban the platform. The move has met with divided opinion. Those in favour of a ban argue that the CPC could brainwash the country’s youth and that would be detrimental, dangerous and disastrous. Others argue against the ban, saying it would be an assault on free-speech -- but those are the liberals. Donald Trump and the fellow Vivek Ramaswamy who had stood as a Republican candidate for the presidency are against the ban. Why? Surprise, surprise!

Because Jeff Yaas, a donor of millions of dollars to the Republican Party and to Donald Trump’s campaigns, owns 15 per cent shares in ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok.

This is actually a bit of a “surprise-surprise” as Mr Trump, when he was President, proposed banning TikTok as his government alleged that it posed a security risk. But donors of course speak louder than the CIA?

As I confessed to start with, I have never accessed TikTok -- or for that matter any other of these platforms. In fact, the editor of my about-to-be-published novel, Deccan Queen -- Take Two, had asked for my “handles” on the social media. I don’t know what these are and have told him so. But if TikTok is telling American and European younger generations that the genocide in Gaza is wrong, I am myself against the ban -- even though Jeff Yaas hasn’t donated a dollar to forward my campaign to be Baron Dhondy of Sachapir.

But perhaps TikTok is for the invasion of Ukraine by Russia -- as Mr Trump has hinted that he may be. In which case I am for banning the platform from the UK and India too.

The ownership of media by foreigners is something that is at present occupying the British media and Hedgie Soongone’s government.

The particular case involves two newspaper titles, The Daily Telegraph and the weekly magazine The Spectator. They are at present owned by the billionaire Barclay family, whose billionaire status has run into some trouble as they owe Lloyd’s Bank a fair proportion of what they own. They propose to sell the two publications and the highest bidder who has declared an intention to buy them is an American media conglomerate financed by the United Arab Emirates, and specifically Abu Dhabi.

Horror of horrors! Arabs, Muslims, possibly-anti-Israeli-genocide-wallas owning the ultra-right titles?

Surely the Soongone government has, as every columnist and cry-baby hypocrite of the Torygraph and pathetically and dishonestly right-focused Spectator demands, should move to ban these potentially subversive foreigners from owning a UK media outlet?

Never mind the fact that the same government is very happy to allow Middle Eastern despots to invest billions in the UK and to sell them armaments? Hey, business is business?

And how are they going to manage such a ban. A law saying foreigners can’t own newspapers, TV channels and social media platforms in the UK? Great! So, what happens to Rupert Murdoch, and the Australian-American’s newspapers and TV channels he owns? Banned?

And the other right-wing rag The Daily Mail owned by Lord Rothermere who has chosen to live in France to dodge UK taxes?

Of course, X, Facebook, TikTok and Linked-in are owned by solid UK citizens -- John Smith of Basingstoke, aren’t they? (Don’t be silly yaar! --Ed)

If the government moves to ban the sale of the two papers to Abu Dhabi, they will have to discriminate between one foreign owner and the other. How? On what basis? Religion, nationality, race...?

If Abu Dhabi’s royals do buy the Spectator, I shall look forward to a change of editor and editorial preoccupations. One of their booby columnists is against the exposure or historical criticism of people and institutions who or which profited from the slave trade. Another claims that some idiots at universities wanting to neutralise gender pronouns means the end of civilisation. A female columnist of theirs writes every week about quarrels or exchanges with her English country, and now Irish, neighbours or about feeding her horses. I am sure there is a readership for this sort of writing and opinion. I am equally sure such readership is dwindling.

Err… how does one get onto TikTok?

Tags: tik tok, control over social media, free speech