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What if nobody owned our children's data?

Read to the end for a really good Ramadan cat

I am very, very, very excited to say that today’s whole issue was edited by the fabulous Bijan Stephen. Let me know what you think!

The Future Of TikTok


The US House Of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to ban TikTok this morning, with Democrats and Republicans voting YEA in almost equal numbers. It’s unclear what happens next.

President Biden has said that he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN that he wasn't sure if the Senate would hold a vote — which would mean the bill might not even end up with Biden in the first place. And in the Senate, there are signs of partisan disagreement: Sen. Rand Paul has been very outspoken about blocking it, as has former President Trump. Republicans, free speech, broken clock, etc.

I've gamed out the different outcomes here a few times now, but here are the basics of the situation: If ByteDance divests TikTok, it'll likely cycle through a bunch of owners, get mined for all its user data, and in the process lose its competitive edge. There are a million TikTok clones and all of them could easily outpace the app if it got Musk'd. You know, if previous sales of sites like Myspace, Tumblr, and Twitter are anything to go on.

If ByteDance doesn't divest the company, it'll pull out of the US entirely. Most of the research I've seen indicates that the second and third biggest countries on TikTok are Indonesia and Brazil, in terms of total users. In fact, the US is the only English-speaking country in the top 10. So the app would change pretty drastically for the users still on it.

As for how it would feel inside the US, well, that’s also up in the air. The largest country to ban TikTok is India, which blocked the app in 2020. As Rest Of World pointed out, it actually didn't affect local creators all that much. They just went to other platforms. Which is probably what would happen here: some kind of mass migration to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. Even so, a ban would massively shake up America’s cultural landscape. TikTok has a huge amount of influence on the music industry, for example. Though of course, Universal Music Group might kill that even without a federal ban. 

All that said, US content might still be popular on TikTok. Like India, Russia is also theoretically not on TikTok. But Russian content, in Russian, still trends regularly on the app. In November, the biggest hashtag on TikTok was for the premiere of The Boy's Word: Blood on the Asphalt, a Russian crime drama.

In addition, we'll probably still see TikToks in the event of a total ban — because we still see things like Douyin videos, which come from an app trapped behind China's Great Firewall. TikTok videos are downloadable and every other platform supports TikTok-like content now, so the watermark will absolutely keep popping up on apps like Instagram. None of this matters, though. 

The anti-TikTok push in Washington is built on top of a mess of false assumptions and bizarre contradictions. As John Herrman pointed out in New York Magazine this week, the app has been banned on federal phones since late 2022, so lawmakers that aren't using burners don't really know how to use the app or what it’s like to be on it. But they assume it's a powerful Chinese cyberweapon and, troublingly, want to own it. 

The problem is, Washington can't nationalize TikTok the way they think China has. So they're fine offering it up to Silicon Valley or banning it entirely. Because they either think Silicon Valley can run it just as well, or because they think it’d be easy for the geniuses in the valley to spin up a new globally relevant video app. Except they can't. Because if they could, they would have built TikTok. If you’d have asked me, in 2018, whether or not I thought lawmakers would be talking about TikTok the way those scientists in Watchmen talk about Dr. Manhattan just six years later, I would have thought you were out of your mind. 

In fact, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan asked reporters yesterday: "Do we want the data from TikTok — children’s data, adults’ data — to be going — to be staying here in America or going to China?" 

What about, uh, no one? What if nobody had… our children's data?

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Friends! Hello! My name is Mike Rugnetta, and I make a podcast about the internet called Never Post

If you like Garbage Day, I think you’ll like our show (we like Garbage Day, and our show!)

On Never Post we talk about why the internet – and the world, because of the internet – is the way it is. We’ve discussed the sublime repetitiveness of trickshot streams, how fashion influencers lead to the death of tween fashion, why there has been an uptick in Independent Media Companies in the last few years

Find us at neverpo.st, this RSS feed, and wherever you get podcasts ✌️

I’m Playing A Live Show Later This Month

It’s on March 23rd at the new Knitting Factory in New York City. I’m opening for Tanlines. It’ll be a mix of music, “standup,” and random beats of internet ephemera. It’s gonna be rad. You can grab tickets for it here.

I Have No Idea What To Make Of This


INTRO TO LOGARITHMS this time with Ice Spice and Elon🔥🔥 Lots of people have found this BAP word helpful to remind them what a logarithm wr... See more

This content is simply too dangerous to be owned by a Chinese company.

Dune 2, A Fun Thing We Can All Agree On

— by Adam Bumas


There’s Dune 2, the big new movie everyone’s seeing. Then there’s Dune, the weird science fiction book series sitting on 60 years’ worth of nerd goodwill, filled with impenetrable terms and also a lot of Arabic. Both of them are a lot of fun, in the same way that the internet as a whole used to be fun, and all the jokes about the Bene Gesserit voice and popcorn buckets (which we’ll get to in a sec) are bringing back a neglected form of Having Fun Online. 

Because the nerds that built the internet — the ones who created the infrastructure our entire culture runs on —  can’t get enough of Dune. Elon loves it (even misattributing random quotes to it) and MrBeast’s favorite pastime is the tabletop game. Mike Isaac reported in the New York Times last week that basically every tech company and VC firm held their own private screening. It’s more joy than I’ve seen from any of these people since COVID convinced them the metaverse was a real thing.

Which is why I was excited to see that on Letterboxd, when you say you’ve watched Dune, the site shows you a blue-on-blue Eye of Ibad instead of the regular one. Dune 2 is allowing these smaller, less financialized and corporatized practices to peek out from behind the bland, minimalist, algorithmically-presented barrier. It recalls an earlier era, when easter eggs and Flash games and other simple, enjoyable ways to use the computer were part of the fabric of the internet.

Gamergate 2 Is Not Slowing Down

The "controversy" brewing around narrative design company Sweet Baby Inc. just jumped the first hurdle on its path to becoming a new global fascist movement. The conspiracy was picked up by several large right-wing influencers this week, no doubt spreading it beyond gaming communities. Even Elon Musk has tweeted about it. Concerning. 

Aftermath has a good piece breaking down how this whole thing started, but here are the broad strokes. Late last year, radicalized gaming communities on sites like Reddit and X began ranting about a black character named Saga Anderson in the video game Alan Wake 2. Users noticed that Sweet Baby — which describes itself as an "inclusion-focused narrative and consultation company” — had worked on the game, and subsequently decided they were the reason the game included a black character. Not, you know, because the creative people at the studio who were in charge of a hundred million dollar project wanted to include a black person in the game for their own reasons.

Gamers started a Steam group to track other games that Sweet Baby had consulted on and have since concocted an elaborate theory that the company is forcing some kind of “woke agenda” on studios and ruining their games.  

If you have a normal brain, you might not understand why gamers care if games don't sell well.  But you have to remember that gamers treat intellectual property the way sports fans treat teams. So if, say, a game about DC Comics' Suicide Squad — which Sweet Baby worked on — doesn't sell well, they treat it as a personal affront and start looking for someone to blame. Because, again, they equate their self worth with consumerism.

I've been calling this whole thing Gamergate 2. But that’s maybe the wrong name, because it's moving much faster. Gamergate did not immediately manifest as a coherent political movement. It started in 2014 as an angry blog post with no basis in reality written by an aggrieved ex-boyfriend, alleging his former partner, indie game dev Zoë Quinn, was part of a media conspiracy to give good reviews to woke games.

The Sweet Baby conspiracy, however, is already off to the races. This is how mainstream conservative activism works now: make something up to be mad at, and stuff all of your weird culture war grievances into it. It’s a shame, because all this could have been stopped if the spaces Gamergate grew in were moderated properly in the first place. 

Andrew Tate Was Taken Into Custody Because A Streamer Accidentally Revealed His Plans To Flee The Country

Livestreamer Adin Ross told his audience this week that Men's Rights podcaster and alleged human trafficker Andrew Tate invited him to Romania for a week of "long streams and content," after which Tate planned to leave the country and never come back.

Ross's stream was enough for Romanian authorities to detain Tate again, and this time he was served an arrest warrant by UK law enforcement. (Tate was released from house arrest last year, but has been awaiting trial in Romania on charges of rape and human trafficking.) A Romanian court has now said he can be extradited to the UK. Tate's lawyer confirmed it was Ross's stream that triggered the arrest. Which is extremely funny.

Here's what I can't get over. Imagine you are planning to flee a country and become an international fugitive — allegedly. And then imagine that the thing you want to do before you go on the run is make a bunch of "long streams and content." 

Please, For The Love Of God, Stop Asking Celebrities About Memes

Earlier this month, Nerdist asked Dune star Rebecca Ferguson about the Dune 2 fleshlight popcorn bucket that everybody wants to fuck. [Ed. note: not everyone.] If you were to close your eyes and imagine how that interaction went, you'd be pretty close to getting it right. Ferguson, like most famous people, did not know about the meme. So she googled it. She kinda laughed. The reporter does one of those "right? So weird" reactions. Fin.

I've been trying to put my finger on the weird dynamic at play with all of these videos, like when the Huff Post UK asked Dakota Johnson about the Madame Web meme. And the conclusion I've come to is that there is a massive section of the entertainment press that has intense student council brain. They treat celebrities like they're normal offline people and ask them to judge our weird — and usually very horny and/or mean — memes like a classroom that got together to make the teacher a present. It's strange as hell.

We need to go back to real entertainment journalism. Like making actors eat increasingly hot chicken wings or forcing them to play "would you rather, gay son or thot daughter" on a red carpet somewhere. No more of this “did you know people want to fuck the bucket?” stuff.

The Dichotomy Is Crazy


To whoever recommend “me & my dog” by boy genius today in my live idk if i should be thanking you or crying #boygenius #ootd #phoebebridge... See more

Emo Internet has been torn asunder by a TikTok video uploaded by Sam Wilmot, the lead singer of the band Savings. I hadn't heard of them, but they're pretty good! Very 2013-core pop punk. Anyway, in his TikTok, Wilmot commented on how weird it is that he looks "tough" and has tattoos and wears grindcore band shirts, but listens to bands like boygenius. He also does that thing where he rolls his very small beanie up above his ears.

"The dichotomy is crazy," he concludes.

You can guess how this all played out. It got uploaded to X. People are losing their minds over it. A couple verified dorks are talking about it in Sephiroth voice. I assumed all this attention would result in him getting milkshake duck'd in some capacity. I mean, he is the lead singer of a pop punk band, and we all know what that means. But, apparently, he's a real nice guy even if his TikToks are corny. Hey, if he wants to be baby girl, let him be baby girl. More bland main characters, please.

The Queens Of The Late Stage Emo Era Have Returned

The Millionaires are back with a new song. For many people, this will mean nothing. But for a select few of you, this will make you feel so old that you suspect you might actually be dead. Unfortunately you’re still cursed to walk the earth.

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