Politicians criticized for not confronting big tech as TikTok draws teen riots to Oxford Street

Politicians are too afraid to take on big tech companies who profit from algorithms and advertising that spread harmful content, according to a former police chief superintendent.

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A former chief superintendent highlights that politicians avoid confronting big tech companies as social media posts prompted crowds of teenagers to gather on London’s Oxford Street. Police issued dispersal orders and made arrests following messages on Snapchat and TikTok urging participation in an ‘Oxford Circus JD robbery.’ The ex-police chief emphasizes that young, impressionable individuals are influenced by online content and suggests imposing financial penalties on tech companies for allowing such messages to spread. Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for those involved to be ‘hunted down’ and affirmed police support in maintaining public order.

TikTok’s algorithm spreads popular content among peers, increasing the likelihood of young users encountering such messages. Its automated moderation technology reviews videos but may miss violations, allowing such content to remain accessible. Experts note that authorities do not understand TikTok’s dynamics, with young people adept at using coded language, making it challenging for outsiders to comprehend. Concerns arise about the pandemic’s impact on youth, potentially fueling disillusionment with existing power structures and fostering herd mentality. Academics stress that algorithms wield immense influence, shaping opinions and encouraging conformity.

Why is it important?

This issue highlights the growing influence of social media algorithms in shaping behavior and mobilizing crowds, particularly among impressionable youth. The reluctance of politicians to address tech companies’ roles raises questions about digital governance, the potential for misinformation to spread, and the need for measures to safeguard vulnerable users.