Opinion: Clock ticking in state and nation for Chinese video platform Tik Tok?

AP File Photo/Alex Brandon / Former President Donald Trump attempted to ban Tik Tok in 2020.

If you know who Khaby Lame and Charli D'Amelio are, we know how you spend your day. And we don't need algorithms to figure it out.

If you know who they are, you spend hours of your day watching TikTik videos. The two, according to dexerto.com, are the most followed TikTok accounts as of this month.

Lame is a 23-year-old Sengelese-Italian man who silently mocks overly complicated "life hack" videos on the social media platform. D'Amelio is an 18-year-old American who, following a 10-year competitive dance career, began posting dance videos on the platform.

The rest of the top five for those wondering if their favorites are anywhere near the top are Bella Poarch, Addison Rae and Jimmy "MrBeast" Donaldson. If you know, you know -- we guess.

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has more than a billion users worldwide and about 150 million in the United States.

President Donald Trump tried to ban it in 2020, but judges stopped the attempt, and now the federal government is considering restricting it again over security concerns.

TikTok, like American companies Google, Facebook and Instagram, gathers private information on its online users. If you check out a product on Amazon.com, you're likely to see it pop up on your Facebook scroll, for instance.

People didn't worry so much when the information flowed from one U.S. company to another, but China is a communist-led country in a fight with the U.S. for economic and political dominance.

National and state lawmakers have said TikTok could be used to influence Americans about attitudes toward China, about their American leaders and political campaigns.

China has banned social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the very reason U.S. officials are considering restrictions on TikTok here -- the ability to influence people and culture. Unlike the U.S., though, China tightly controls its internet and the information to which its citizens have access.

India has banned TikTok. The U.S. federal government has banned it from its government devices and networks, and Belgium, Great Britain and Canada have taken similar steps.

Here in Tennessee, the state -- as more than half the states already have done -- is considering banning it on government devices. On Thursday, in a bipartisan vote, the state House passed a bill that would block it from the Wi-Fi networks of the state's public universities (with state Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga voting against it because it could open a Pandora's box of blocking other sites). The measure already had passed the state Senate and now awaits the signature of the governor if it is to become law.

A ban on public WiFi networks, while symbolic, won't keep individual TikTok users from using their own data plans to view it.

Elsewhere, some lawmakers think the way to go is to ban the platform's app from the app stores of Google and Apple (with the platform's agreement, we hope) and make the app nonfunctional going forward on U.S. cellphone networks. But the government wouldn't have a way of reaching into current cellphone accounts to switch off the app. Still others say one solution would be for the Chinese owners to sell the app to a U.S. company.

Added to that are First Amendment concerns some critics have about restricting speech.

If you've ever seen someone spend hours watching video after video -- paying no attention to their surrounding environment -- you know how addictive TikTok can be. And while there aren't prominent cases in which TikTok videos have been shown to take such steps as fomenting violence in the U.S. or building up the Chinese government to the exclusion of the U.S., we've learned over the past decade how other countries can influence social media platforms and how even U.S. social media platforms have been used for political bias.

So, should we be concerned about the potential for the Chinese social media platform to be used negatively? Absolutely.

As to what to do about it, we lean toward removing it from app stores and cellphone networks. Plenty of websites already exist for viewing videos, and we don't doubt a U.S. company could be created that would rival TikTok (if that's really what we want).

Our concern is more about the wasted time, the lack of intellectual fulfillment and the self-centeredness that the Chinese platform -- and those in the U.S. to whom users are drawn for hours at a time -- have fostered.

We fear they have created a generation with attitudes similar to what one Nashville TikTok creator recently told an interviewer, who asked if she had security concerns about the Chinese company.

"I do think this is important," she said. "However, I am not personally concerned with it."

That attitude doesn't exactly help us think of the country as a shining example of "the best and the brightest."