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January 4, 2023 21 min

At the end of 2022, Congress passed legislation to ban TikTok from all government devices, citing data privacy concerns and potential ties between the app and the Chinese government. But this isn't the first time the incredibly popular social media platform occupied headlines. Ever since TikTok exploded worldwide in 2018, news outlets across the country have breathlessly reported on TikTok challenges, which they claim range from the bizarre (licking toilet seats) to the dangerous ("National School Shooting Day"). However, the actual reach and impact of these challenges remain mysterious — or, more often, minimal. 

On the Media correspondent Micah Loewinger breaks down a short history of these TikTok panics, and looks into the failures of news outlets to judiciously report on overblown TikTok virality, as well as the cyclic paranoia that arises when we face new technology (think: comic books corrupting youth in the 1950s). He poses the question: haven't we been through this already? 

Special thanks to New York City Municipal Archives for providing archival audio related to the effects of radio and comics books on children.

This segment originally aired on our May 13th, 2022 program, Seeing is Believing.

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