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TikTok is the social media sensation that all of Silicon Valley — and a lot of Washington, DC — has their eyes on. The app, created by ByteDance, became famous for rocketing musicians and dancers to stardom. But as its popularity and influence have grown, so has scrutiny of its privacy policies, security, and influence, with legislators voicing concern about its ownership by a Chinese firm. Meanwhile, social media competitors are doing everything they can to knock off TikTok’s features and usurp its short-form video dominance.

The Kia Boys will steal your car for clout

A loose collective of teenage car thieves has stolen tens of thousands of Hyundai and Kia vehicles, often posting the results on YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok.

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That’s not what I’d call a denial.

The New York Times reports that TikTok’s internal Slack-like tool, Lark, has made data on American users visible to teams in China — very much the kind of thing US regulators have been worried about.

In response, TikTok’s spokesperson seems to say something along the lines of we’re getting better. But it’s very much not a this isn’t happening.

Alex Haurek, a TikTok spokesman, called the documents seen by The Times “dated.” He said they did not accurately depict “how we handle protected U.S. user data, nor the progress we’ve made under Project Texas.”

Can you even watch this video in Montana?

Well, maybe not in 2024 if a new law banning TikTok within the state takes effect. Makena Kelly can explain more.

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Fruit Roll-Ups are going for $8 each in Israel because of a TikTok trend.

People are getting arrested at the airport for smuggling hundreds of pounds of Fruit Roll-Ups into the country! Incredible.

In late April, the agency said, an American couple were caught, each carrying a suitcase filled with more than 185 pounds of Fruit Roll-Ups, part of a haul of nearly 375 pounds. The Tax Authority also shared a video of the unusual discovery, which appeared to show a customs official sifting through several suitcases filled only with hundreds of the small silver and red foil packets. […]

A man’s voice in the video can be heard answering why he had filled two checked bags with Fruit Roll-Ups. “It has something to do with ice cream,” he said, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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EU begins its latest crackdown on online content moderation.

The European Union has outlined 19 platforms that will be subject to stricter regulations under the upcoming Digital Services Act.

Unsurprisingly, it includes Amazon, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other Google services, all of which have four months to comply with rules about harmful and illegal content. More surprisingly… so does Wikipedia.

TikTok is not okay with our fake-Drake laser bong song.

We have been trying to post it all day and keep getting flagged because, well, it is obviously about doing drugs with lasers. I demand a Congressional hearing into this situation. Also: just watch it on YouTube Shorts.

TikTok screen with a Verge video removed for “drugs, controlled substances, alcohol, and tobacco.”
I don’t even know how to begin to explain this to my mom.
On The Vergecast: How a TikTok ban would work, the Android phone to buy, and why your life needs some OLED.

TikTok’s probably not going away anytime soon, but will that stop governments around the US from trying? Why is it that only two companies make Android phones worth buying? And can Chris Welch convince you to spend $3,000 on a new TV? On The Vergecast, these and other big questions. Like: what is a quantum dot?

Montana state legislature votes to ban TikTok from app stores in the state.

The bill (PDF) now waits to be signed by Montana governor Greg Gianforte. It would penalize app stores $10,000 per violation per day for distributing TikTok.

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said to CNN that “The bill’s champions have admitted that they have no feasible plan for operationalizing this attempt to censor American voices and that the bill’s constitutionality will be decided by the courts... We will continue to fight for TikTok users and creators in Montana whose livelihoods and First Amendment rights are threatened by this egregious government overreach.”

Inside the US government’s fight to ban TikTok

The Verge met with lawmakers, creators, and civil rights experts to determine whether the government will ban TikTok.

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The Swifties are in mourning — and in denial.

Taylor Swift fans are not taking well the news of her and Joe Alwyn’s breakup. It’s easier for them to believe random fan accounts assuring viewers it’s “propaganda.”

Please don’t shoot the messenger! These TikTokkers don’t have a line to Swift’s publicist, but sites like Entertainment Tonight do.

In celebration of the dumb phone, a rare sanity-saving gadget

In a tech-dominated world, it’s getting harder and harder to truly unplug. A dumb phone could help us balance the scale just a little bit.

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TikTok fined $16M because it can’t keep kids away.

The world’s favorite social media app — except in India where it’s banned, and China where it’s called Douyin and is very different — was penalized for allowing an estimated 1 million UK kids on the app despite the age limit (13) and using their personal data without parental consent.

Yeah, but did you see that new beauty filter? So fun!

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TikTok’s top lawyer literally LOL’d when he was asked about the app being banned during a recent company all hands.

In case you’re curious how TikTok really feels about its prospects of being banned from the US, this is from my Command Line newsletter that just went out to paying subscribers:

During a recent all-hands meeting with TikTok’s US employees, general counsel Erich Anderson, who has been leading the company’s negotiations with the government, was asked what the contingency plan was if a ban were to happen. He audibly laughed at the question and outright dismissed the possibility of a ban, according to people who heard the remarks. He then went on to explain that TikTok was prepared to fight a ban in court if it had to, seemingly contradicting his initial reaction...

Also: I chat with the CEO of Medium about why he’s bullish on Mastodon, eavesdrop on policy changes coming to Midjourney, and more.

You can subscribe at the link below to get the full thing in your inbox. The first month is free.

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Why does it feel like we can’t escape TikTok?

You ever notice how you can’t escape the TikTok-style video chumbucket, even on Instagram, Spotify, or um, the NBA app?

John Herrman takes a stroll through platform incentives — and what a TikTok ban might mean:

This would no doubt be a gift to American social-media platforms in terms of both user habits and raw advertising dollars. It would also reveal just how thoroughly they’ve been hollowed out over the years and how completely they’ve abandoned their core appeal in pursuit of a competitor they could never catch and won’t be able to replace in the event of its disappearance.

The TikTok ban is a betrayal of the open internet

There’s cause for alarm with TikTok — but is it enough to justify building America’s own Great Firewall?

AOC’s first TikTok is... about TikTok.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has some thoughts about the potential TikTok ban — namely that it doesn’t address the broader social media privacy concerns at hand:

I think a lot of this is putting the cart before the horse because our first priority should be in protecting your ability to exist without social media companies harvesting and commodifying every single piece of data about you.

The Vergecast watched the TikTok hearing so you don’t have to.

And we bring you the best parts, including Grapefruit Theories and WiFi Problems and The One About The Eyes. We also talk about Bard and ChatGPT… but mostly The One About The Eyes. It’s the Vergecast! This is what hearings do to us.