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The Problem Isn’t With TikTok

The Problem Isn’t With TikTok

Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, December 31

Whether we like it or not, TikTok is taking over the world. I’ve heard about the rulings of religious leaders who banned the use of the app, but the fact remains that the number of people downloading TikTok is on the rise. In fact, the company marked one billion active subscribers last month, which means that roughly one in every seven people on Earth regularly watches clips on TikTok. Therefore, anyone who calls to ban TikTok is delusional. It’s completely unrealistic to prevent our youth from using it. These campaigns against TikTok usually revolve around the foolish, secular content that people upload onto the platform. But in my opinion, this criticism is entirely wrong. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with amusing content that is meant to entertain the masses. The problem is quite contrary: the real danger posed by TikTok is its ability to spread serious content that is divisive or false. Like many other social media platforms, TikTok can be used to proliferate conspiracy theories and fake news. I recently stumbled upon a video depicting a deranged person desecrating religious symbols belonging to a certain group. The goal of the video was clear: to increase religious and sectarian rivalry and spew hatred within society. Therefore, the solution to the TikTok problem isn’t to ban the app, it’s to educate users to consume the content shared on it more critically. Unfortunately, we have failed as a society at educating younger generations about harmful content and ways to mitigate it. For example, these platforms repeat the never-ending trope that Muslims are victims of the West, that their religion is under fierce war, and that their countries are invaded and annihilated. This content is meant to instill a sense of persecution within the younger generations of Arabs, who easily seize on such thoughts, which are then difficult to extract from their consciousness and thinking. Although the facts on the ground are irrefutable, these arguments are widely accepted by many Arab teenagers, who don’t have so-called “intellectual resistance.” The solution, in my view, isn’t to shut down these platforms, to tarnish their reputation or to dehumanize those who use them. Instead, we must focus our energy on developing and implementing school curricula that promote a critical reading of news, politics and world events. We must also promote the values of coexistence and human openness to different religions and peoples. Perhaps this is the best thing we can offer to younger generations in the new year, instead of exhortations that might make us feel good about ourselves, but achieve nothing in the long run. – Mamdouh Al-Muhaini (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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