Rebel Tech Newsletter: The TikTok Tussle

publishedabout 1 month ago
4 min read

April 25th, 2023

The Rebel Tech Newsletter is our safe place to critique data and tech algorithms, processes and systems. We highlight a recent data article in the news and share resources to help you dig deeper in understand how our digital world operates. DataedX Group helps data educators, scholars and practitioners learn how to make responsible data connections. We help you source remedies and interventions based on the needs of your team or organization.


“Some American lawmakers want to ban TikTok over worries that its 150 million US users could be a powerful weapon in the hands of the Chinese government. TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress last month. Several members angrily charged that the app could be used to gather intelligence about Americans, expose kids and teenagers to inappropriate content, and spread dangerous disinformation in service of that government's agenda. While some security experts agree it's possible that TikTok could pose a danger to national security, they argue that a ban isn't the right way to handle those concerns. Instead, they argue that political leaders should focus on passing federal digital privacy legislation that would regulate how all social media companies collect, protect and share user data.”

Admittedly, I’m not a TikTok fan. I see enough repurposed TikTok content on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I don’t want another social media platform that I’d be cultivating a community or scroll through aimlessly. So I’m all for a TikTok ban – although I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I do agree that US AI governance and regulation should be a much, much higher priority for the US House of Representatives and US Senate.

Let’s first call out publicly what the real concern is: the US is scared of another Cambridge Analytica scandal leading up to the US Presidential election of a certain twice-impeached, 1-term, 34-count felony indicted individual. Since TikTok is so popular and influential, US political leaders are afraid that TikTok will be the new Facebook. That’s unlikely. What’s more likely, imho, is that US citizens won’t pay attention to any of the election ads due to feelings of distrust and political fatigue.

Secondly, the passing of federal AI governance legislation, including data privacy, transparency, accountability and algorithmic impact assessments would be wonderful for us US citizens and for the world, but each attempt has been met with such opposition. There’s such resistance because any federal AI governance legislation will benefit The People, not the corporations. The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights released in October 2022 is a great step to move us over, around and through the opposition walls. A short course on the components of this blueprint would do wonders for the US so The People could understand how each of the 5 categories discussed is relevant to their lives. And this legislation can gain enough momentum to be turned into law.

Lastly, tech systems, tools and platforms are being created and released far too quickly for human comprehension. Many tech creators don’t have control of their own creations. That’s a clear indicator that they need to stop. But they won’t due to selfish reasons labeled as national security so we’re left in this spiral of degradation. Read “Lost in AI” on Medium if you want more snarky commentary.

Moving forward, it’ll be a sign of progress if protecting our data should take precedence over collecting our data in the hopes of protecting it on the backend.

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"We start head-on with oppression because it’s not a new occurrence to our global society. Tech has simply reinvented it. To drive this point home, I’ll describe how oppression manifests in the law and in the sciences." pg 4 Data Conscience

The U.S. economies of anti-Blackness are fiscally abundant for those who aren’t Black. And these economies are consistently providing dividends. This social structure that enables these economies is defined, maintained and enforced by the laws from slave codes to Black codes to Jim Crow laws to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 being extended but not becoming law. With established economies and social structure reinforced by laws, power dynamics shift to those with wealth and with wealth comes political, any by association legal, influence. This cycle of economics, social and political impact churned for generations before tech became widespread. And by tech, I’m referring to all aspects of data/AI systems, tools and platforms. Tech downloads and disseminates at scale the economic, social and political structures of our society with glaring limitations: it’s unable to handle situational context or reconcile conflicting truths. Tech serves as a mirror to what our society is – not what we think it is. Your call-to-action is to educate yourself on the Black American history, the Black history around the world and share what you’ve learned with 3 other people.


Sis, have you written down all the ish you’ve done *professionally* in the last 3 months? Your data skills, expertise and experience have been valuable to more people than you realize. And you need to be kind to yourself by recognizing your impactful outcomes and celebrating them fully.

Daily-ish rest routine suggestion: Lay down for 15 min, eyes closed, in silence (if you can). We are always doing something. Busy doing tasks or thinking about the tasks we are going to do later. Stop. Clear your mind of the mental clutter.

Black Women in Data Summit

September 23-24, 2023

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$499 In-Person | $129 Online


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Brandeis Marshall - DataedX

Learn how to make more responsible data connections. I help educators, researchers and practitioners align data polices, practices and products for equity. Sign up for my Rebel Tech Newsletter!

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