Poli Savvy: The clock is TikToking

There’s trouble in paradise as Americans’ beloved entertainment app is threatened to be banned

It seems like every week, the U.S. government is threatening to ban TikTok, everyone’s favourite entertainment app.

Though the removal of the app was originally set to happen on Sept. 20, the confusing ebb and flow of Chinese-American politics has unsurprisingly decided against it, pushing it back to this Sunday.

Unsurprisingly though, after weeks of suspense, the ban was finally suppressed by a federal judge.

As of now, we don’t know if the Trump administration will go through with this decision, or if it will be pushed back (yet again).

But the restraints applied to TikTok go beyond preventing young Americans from watching and making viral videos: it has implications with censorship, data privacy, discrimination, and economic relations as well.

A quick 15 second recap

In recent months, the Trump administration has grown increasingly suspicious of TikTok’s soaring popularity, with members of each major party questioning the security of the app, especially after a long investigation into Russian involvement in the American elections.

Though its U.S. headquarters are in Los Angeles, TikTok’s mother company, ByteDance, is Chinese-owned. The same is true of multi-purpose app WeChat, which is owned by China-based Tencent.

Right now, TikTok has an estimated 100 million monthly American users, to WeChat’s more humble 3.3 million (though the latter has recorded around 1.2 billion monthly users across the world).

With a combined usership equating to a third of the US population — or almost three times the population of Canada — the proportions and allegations concerning this decision are huge.

What’s going on with the apps?

Legally, the government of China is entitled to all the data owned by Chinese companies.

For a while now, the U.S. government has been concerned about ByteDance sharing private information, including location and contacts with the Chinese government, which earned them a lawsuit last year.

This comes after other scandals involving TikTok in regards to censorship: leaked documents about their algorithm policies showed they removed videos that were considered “controversial,” including any post which referred to the liberation movement in Tibet, the camps of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, or the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

On another occasion, some of the apps’ discriminatory policies were also exposed, showing that their algorithms tended to hide the content of “unattractive, disabled, or poor users.”

For some time, the only way for the Trump administration to let TikTok off the hook was to sell it to an American company, which would solve its information-sharing habit.

The top contenders have been Microsoft — but the deal fell through a few weeks ago — Walmart, and Oracle, who are now in talks to buy huge amounts of shares in TikTok, but not enough to please Trump, who won’t rule the ban off the table until the app cuts all ties with its Chinese owners.

Ultimately, prohibiting the operation of these apps seems to be a proxy for the friction in the U.S. and China’s relations.

With constant quarrels about trade, national security, and just the general values of each country’s leader, it is clear that TikTok and WeChat have found themselves at the forefront of yet another political conflict.



The religious symbol ban is backwards

Ban. Forbid. Prohibit. Most would assume these words are associated with important issues like banning plastic bags, forbidding child marriage or prohibiting smoking in certain areas. Instead, Quebec is once again caught in a useless but ever-present debate about banning religious symbols.

The incoming Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government under François Legault is attempting to follow through on their campaign promise to ban religious symbols for civil servants in positions of authority. This includes preventing teachers, police officers and judges, among others, from wearing the Muslim hijab, the Sikh turban or the Jewish kippah. This isn’t the first time Quebec politicians have tried to forbid people from wearing religious symbols. In fact, it was only a year ago that the provincial government was debating Bill 62, which would have prevented civil servants from covering their faces when accessing public services. Initially, the CAQ said government employees who didn’t comply with the ban would be choosing between having a job and wearing a religious symbol. Following criticism from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and protests from others in Quebec, the CAQ has now stated that they are willing to compromise and only apply the ban to newly hired employees, according to The Globe and Mail. Frankly, this is appalling and downright frustrating.

Our schools and teachers must be diverse in order to reflect reality. When you walk down the streets of Montreal, you inevitably come across diversity. Why should walking down Quebec school hallways be any different? Preventing people from expressing their religious beliefs is oppressive and destructive to society’s progression. Having children taught by teachers who wear the Sikh turban helps to normalize religious diversity. A police officer who wears the hijab can help enforce the idea that your religious beliefs don’t hinder your ability to do your job well.

We at The Concordian wholeheartedly reject this atrocious ban; but more importantly, we reject the rhetoric behind it. While the CAQ and the ban’s supporters insist the ban is solely intended to achieve religious neutrality, it’s important to note where the ban is coming from. Simply put, it’s coming from a place of ignorance and intolerance.

It encourages the idea that people must be one and the same, that diversity and differences weaken our society rather than strengthen it. This is hateful, wrong and offensive to many. This ban is flawed in so many ways, and is hypocritical at its core. When asked if the crucifix in the National Assembly will stay, Legault replied that it’s not a religious symbol but rather part of Quebec’s heritage. “We have a cross on our flag,” he said, according to Global News. “I think that we have to understand our past. In our past we had Protestants, Catholics, they built the values we have in Quebec. It’s part of our history.”

How can a religious symbol—the crucifix—not be religious? It’s clear to us that this ban is based on senseless intolerance rather than actual facts and concrete arguments. It seems the CAQ wants to preserve one faith: Christianity. If the ban were truly applied to all facets of public civil service, it should be applied to the National Assembly as well. That’s only fair, right?

Although Christianity certainly played a historic role in establishing Quebec, it’s wrong to single out this one belief system as superior to other religions in Quebec. This logic is a product of the abuse and erasure of Indigenous peoples and culture. It is a result of what happened when colonialism, exploitation and racism collided and created chaos for a group of people.

Quebec’s past was forcefully Christian—other faiths were trampled upon and completely disregarded. Quebec’s present, however, is a multitude of faiths, belief systems and religious identities. Its future is in the hands of many people from different backgrounds who believe in different things. Banning their religious symbols and their ability to freely express themselves is not only oppressive, it’s regressive. We at The Concordian strongly encourage our fellow citizens to stand firm in rejecting this hypocritical, backwards, oppressive ban. Let’s fight for a future where diversity is celebrated, rather than forbidden.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Banning all dogs is banning all rights

Dogs are banned from Hudson’s Sandy Beach after a man was attacked on July 11 by a “pit bull-type dog,” which left him with four puncture wounds in his forearm, according to CBC News. The next day, the mayor of Hudson, Jamie Nicholls decided to ban all dogs from entering the beach with numerous signs that indicate the prohibition. He said that it was his responsibility to protect all citizens of Hudson. I believe that banning all dogs at a dog-friendly beach is offensive to dog owners and animal rights in Quebec.

With Quebec’s new animal bylaw soon to take effect, provincial officials present a hypocrisy as they allow pit bulls in public spaces but ban all dogs at a public beach. Policymakers should either choose to grant full rights to dogs or ban all rights to them because it presents mixed information to the public, and can be confusing to dog owners.

I strongly believe this decision was merely a knee-jerk reaction. In other words, the mayor implemented this new rule in an impulsive and emotion-driven manner. This move can be perceived as a way to avoid all possible negative legal contingencies.  

It is unfair for all dogs and their owners to suffer from the actions of one dog and its owner. Should we ban all bicycles from entering downtown if a bicycle accident takes place? No, because that decision would be demeaning to those who enjoy biking. They should not all be held responsible for it.

Some people would disagree and say that certain individuals have the right to extra protection against aggressive dogs, as they pose a threat to vulnerable people such as children and the elderly. However, the incidents of dog-human aggression is not as common as we think. In a study published for the US National Library of Medicine, only eight of 28 reports on fatal dog attacks in Canada from 1990 to 2007 happened in Central Canada (Quebec and Ontario). Therefore, the incidents of a dog fatally attacking a human is relatively rare in Quebec. I understand this worry but it should not be dramatized.

Many children enjoy playing with dogs. According to Pet MD, dogs such as collies and golden retrievers are among those who enjoy the presence of children. If we ban all dogs on a dog-friendly beach, we are removing children’s freedom to play with these harmless dogs. The ban could possibly decrease the number of people who visit the beach because of this.

Furthermore, dogs need to socialize to prevent aggressive behaviour. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, socialization is a key way to help prevent dogs from biting. Socializing helps dogs feel at ease in a wide range of situations. Thus, removing their right to be on the beach could make them more aggressive in the long run, which is counterproductive to what the ban is trying to achieve.

Instead of banning dogs altogether, there are other possible solutions to the problem. Hudson officials can ask dog owners to muzzle their pet before they enter the beach. This would allow dogs and their owners to enjoy their time at the beach while protecting others from harm.

Policy makers could also divide the beach into two sections: one for dogs and their owners and another for all other visitors. This separation will allow everyone to enjoy and spend time on the beach without conflicts. These two solutions are ways to compromise with both parties instead of blatantly removing the rights of visitors.

It is unjust to discard animal rights because animals are unable to speak up for themselves. It also restricts the freedom of dog owners to have access to certain spaces. Do we really want to prohibit all dogs in a space where they are perhaps the most joyful?

Photo by Alex Hutchins
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