Gullible Maine & DHS Intel Officers Believed Teen TikTok Video Was Serious Terrorist Threat

from the this-just-keeps-getting-dumber dept

We've been noting for a few weeks that much of the hysteria surrounding TikTok is kind of dumb. For one, banning TikTok doesn't really do much to thwart Chinese spying, given our privacy and security incompetence leaves us vulnerable on countless fronts. Most of the folks doing the heaviest pearl clutching over TikTok have opposed efforts at any meaningful internet privacy rules, have opposed funding election security reform, and have been utterly absent or apathetic in the quest for better security and privacy practices over all (the SS7 flaw, cellular location data scandals, etc.).

Even the idea that banning TikTok meaningfully thwarts Chinese spying given the country's total lack of scruples, bottomless hacking budget, and our own security and privacy incompetence (the IOT comes quickly to mind) is fairly laughable. Banning TikTok to thwart Chinese spying is kind of like spitting at a thunderstorm in the hopes of preventing rain. Genuine privacy and security reform starts by actually engaging in serious privacy and security reform, not (waves in the general direction of Trump's bizarre, extortionist, TikTok agenda) whatever the hell this is supposed to be.

I see the entire TikTok saga as little more than bumbling, performative nonsense by wholly unserious people more interested in money, politics, leverage, and power than privacy or national security. Case in point: desperate to create the idea that TikTok is a serious threat, a new document leak reveals that the Department of Homeland Security has spent a good chunk of this year circulating the claim that a nineteen year-old girl was somehow "training terrorists" via a comedy video she posted to TikTok.

According to Mainer, the video in question was sent to police departments across Maine by the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC), part of the DHS network of so-called "Fusion Centers" tasked with sharing and and distributing information about "potential terrorist threats." The problem: when you dig through the teen in question's TikTok posts, it's abundantly clear after about four minutes of watching that she's not a threat. The tweet itself appears to have been deleted, but it too (duh) wasn't anything remotely resembling a genuine terrorist threat or security risk:

"In the TikTok clip, Weirdsappho first displays a satirical tweet from the stand-up comedian Jaboukie Young-White, a correspondent for The Daily Show, that “thanks” police for “bringing in the army” to combat peaceful protests against police brutality. The tweet encourages protestors to throw “water balloons filled w sticky liquids (esp some sort of sugar/milk/syrup combo)” at tanks, in order to “support our troops."

And yet, after the clip got picked up and spread around by a handful of Qanon conspiracy cultists, it was, in turn, picked up and spread around by utterly unskeptical and uncritical agents at DHS and MIAC, who have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to far right extremism (for what should be obvious reasons), but can be easily worked into a lather where the vile menace "antifa" is concerned:

"Fusion Centers like MIAC, which is headquartered in Augusta and run by the Maine State Police, are engaged in a pattern of spreading misinformation, based on far-right rumors, that raise fears of leftist violence at peaceful protests against police brutality. Earlier this month, Mainer exposed how two social media posts by unreliable sources became fodder for official warnings about anarchist “plots” to leave stacks of bricks at protest sites for use as weapons against police.

In a July 15 article based on the BlueLeaks files, The Intercept revealed how DHS and its fusion centers are hyping far-fetched plots by alleged anti-fascist “antifa” activists despite evidence that far-right extremists pose actual threats to law enforcement personnel and protesters."

The idea that law enforcement and "intelligence officials" can't (or just won't) differentiate between joking political teen videos and serious terrorism threats should be terrifying to anybody with a whit of common sense. But it's not just part and parcel for a law enforcement and intel community that apparently can't behave or think objectively, it's par for the course for this wave of TikTok hysteria that's not based on much in the way of, you know, facts.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: comedy, dhs, maine, satire, terrorist content, terrorist threat
Companies: tiktok


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2020 @ 9:57am

    That's the trump agenda tik equals China equals threat, look over here,
    God forbid we should do anything about iot. Sim card hacking, the mediocre state of federal and military security,

    I read an article about tik Tok. A teen says so what if tik Tok is being monitored,
    I give services my data and I get the chance to make fans and communicate with my peers
    Every app is use selling my data and monitoring my use
    Tik Tok is like cb radio for 2020

    Anyone can use it.
    It's to some extent like YouTube a public forum
    Every month there's a site hacked millions users private data leaked
    It would be naive to think that nsa fbi and China are not collecting that data for future use

    Worrying about tik Tok in America is almost comical
    considering the mediocre state of security and the lowvalue companys place on securing user data
    I think the average American teen using apps on a smartphone knows they have very little privacy
    if the use Facebook insta youtube
    All those millionare streamers on twitch or tik Tok
    influencers are not too worried about privacy


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.