The New York Sun

Twitter and TikTok: A Study in Convergence

Twitter’s de facto censorship, alongside TikTok’s manipulation of its users, raises concerns that instead of China becoming like us, we are becoming more like China.

The TikTok logo is displayed at a TikTok office on December 20, 2022, in Culver City, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The TikTok logo is displayed at a TikTok office on December 20, 2022, in Culver City, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The recent furor over Elon Musk’s shakeup at Twitter has set me to thinking about convergence. That’s the term advocates for a cozier relationship with China have been using for years, arguing that the economic ties between America and China and their increasing interdependence meant the two countries would grow more alike than different. 

It turns out they were half-right; except the evidence is growing that instead of China becoming like us, we are becoming more like China.

The perfect illustration is Twitter. Mr. Musk’s announcement that he will be stepping down as chief executive does nothing to detract from what he has already accomplished.  

The steady flood of emails he has released shows that Twitter managers and staff weren’t that different from the staff at TikTok or other Chinese media platforms, in their eagerness to silence voices that government authorities, including the FBI and Dr. Anthony Fauci, didn’t like, and to stifle dissent on the pretense of preventing “mis/disformation.” 

That was rammed home for me by an employee’s email on January 7 last year, expressing doubt about Twitter’s effort to ban President Trump.  “Maybe because I am from China,” wrote this employee, “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation.” 

Another employee then snapped back that the ban would not actually be censorship because Twitter would be acting not at the behest of the government but against the government, meaning Mr. Trump.  

Now we know this was a lie.  In fact, Twitter management acted at the behest of government all the time, including amplifying stories that were patently false, such as branding the New York Post disclosures about Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation. 

This is not that different from Chinese media platforms like TikTok that suppress stories about the Uyghurs or the Tiananmen Square massacre at the Communist government’s behest.  

Now comes a story from America First Legal Foundation of a secret Twitter portal for government officials to censor news directly on the platform. Mr. Musk himself, who’s been quick to debunk any fake news about Twitter, has dubbed the story “Extremely concerning.” 

This eerie convergence between the social media platforms here in America and in Communist China may not be hard to explain.   

The American Left that controls those platforms has much more in common with the Chinese Communist Party than with traditional American values. 

Their intellectual roots are almost exactly the same, namely Marxism and Leninism as taught in our most prestigious universities and in school curriculums by books like the leftist historian Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

To the Marxist, after all, the idea of free speech is a total sham, just like the idea of objective truth. As Lenin himself put it in a speech in 1920, “Why should freedom of speech and freedom of the press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized?”  

It might as well be the motto of the Biden administration.  It certainly describes Twitter before Mr. Musk arrived, and many of Twitter’s own users.  

This may also be why the American left has been agitated by Mr. Musk’s exposure of Twitter’s track record of secret collaboration and manipulation by government agencies; but have been relatively undisturbed by disclosures about TikTok secretly allowing the Chinese government to cull data on Americans and to influence the minds of its millions of American users through its all-powerful preference-based algorithm.  

That algorithm is designed by Chinese engineers to move quickly to identify what kind of content that you’re hooked on, and will make you click and watch more. That’s why TikTok has been compared to crack or fentanyl, but its machinations are intrusive as well as addictive. 

As social media critic Eugene Wei puts it, “When you gaze into TikTok, TikTok gazes into you” — including culling data most of us would consider proprietary and private. 

This may be precisely why the mainstream media has largely ignored the new bipartisan bill in Congress to ban TikTok, and why CNN has dubbed the effort to ban TikTok a Republican “craze.” 

TikTok is the perfect social media platform from the perspective of the left. It’s a model of how to brainwash young minds and train them via their passions and emotions to be compliant to authority — and not to use their reason to criticize or challenge it. 

Mr. Musk’s disclosures about Twitter pose an existential threat to that same left. This raises yet another disturbing question: Now that we know what was happening at Twitter, what’s been happening at Google, at Facebook, at YouTube, along the same lines?  What if there’s been more to convergence than just economic interdependence, but ideological interdependence, as well?  

Read in the New York Sun.