“I believe the argument is valid and relevant to the need for broader social media regulation. I support the idea of equal rules for all. Similar to the implementation of seat belts in cars, initially, there was resistance to the idea until the government intervened to address the high number of injuries and deaths caused by car accidents. The mandate led to the creation of safer steering wheels and airbags. In the same way, there should be a minimum requirement for social media platforms to adhere to safety standards, and the government should create fair rules for everyone.” - Jeremy Au
“I worry that this is the world our children will grow up in. They would have to sort through what is true, what story is being told, what they really believe, or what other people’s motivations are in pushing these narratives. There’s a lot of media awareness that has to be taught these days that we didn’t have to face when we were kids.“ - Shiyan Koh
1. Shiyan and I debated the TikTok congressional hearing’s underlying motivations: social media privacy, data transparency, “think of our children”, national security, and US-China geopolitical tension. We drew parallels with the coalition behind the U.S. Prohibition (1920-1933 alcohol ban): Social reformers, religious progressives, women's suffrage advocates, productivity-oriented business leaders and national security (World War I grain conservation) concerns.
2. We reviewed Tiktok’s defensive response: CEO highlighting his Singaporean identity, de-emphasizing Bytedance ownership, rallying TikTok users, planning server moves to the US and more. We discuss whether the Biden administration would pull the trigger on banning 150M American users (½ of the US population, primarily Gen Z and millennials swing-type voters) when polling for the 2024 U.S. presidential election currently shows a statistical popular vote tie between Biden vs. Trump.
3. We explore the parameters for a fair social media regulatory framework: freedom of expression, moderation, user-defined time-outs, government privacy mandates, app time limits, taxation and others. We link to government regulation on car manufacturers with safety belts, crash testing and steering wheel redesigns. We also highlight Nir Eyal (WSJ bestselling author of Hooked and Indistractable) who advocated for TikTok and other social media regulation in a previous BRAVE interview.
Watch, listen or read the full insight including the mental health effects of social media, parents’ role in helping children use technology positively, and identifying fact vs. fiction at https://www.bravesea.com/blog/tiktok-vs-congress
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Jeremy Au: (01:43)
Morning Shiyan. We're looking at this congress testimonial of the TikTok CEO, Singaporean. What a crazy week so far about the TikTok ban. And so, I figured, let's talk about TikTok. How do we use it? What's driving everything going on today. What do we think about it? Let's talk TikTok, even though we're on podcasts, I guess, and YouTube, and we are on TikTok as well.
Shiyan Koh: (02:10)
So, I actually moved TikTok to the home screen of my phone because I had read that Gen Z people don't use Google. They use TikTok for search, and this horrified me. And so I said, okay, I'm going to use TikTok for search for one week. So I moved it to my home screen and I found it totally unusable. It was like, how do you find anything? There's no source data. I don't understand how people use this for information, and yet they do. How can they count on any of this? So, yeah, that's, that's neither here nor there. But please don't use TikTok to search for information. Please use Google or at least ChatGPT.
Jeremy Au: (02:51)
You just dated yourself.
Shiyan Koh: (02:54)
Oh, for sure.
Jeremy Au: (02:56)
I mean, people don't use an algorithm to search for stuff. You consume stuff and then the AI tells you before you search for it what you want for it. Although it's true that some people actually explicitly search for stuff, yeah, generally you find stuff before you want it. I mean, I've used TikTok and I think I used TikTok a lot during the pandemic because I was stuck at home.
Shiyan Koh: (03:19)
For information purposes or for entertainment purposes? I think that's what I was told people were used for informational purposes and that was what was horrifying to me. For entertainment, I get it. Right. It's highly entertaining.
Jeremy Au: (03:32)
Well, the tricky part you and I both know is that information and entertainment are pretty much blending into one another, right? I was watching a whole bunch of random stuff. Obviously, there's the podcast host of 20VC and all these other folks, but there's also a lot of fun stuff. I mean, Banana Capital, Turner Novak is like discussing. I have revealed my algorithm more than what's on your feed. I have a lot of VCs doing memes on TikTok, and it was really funny as in it's like, okay, let's put it this way. I think TikTok dialled me in because I think they realized that I, first of all, I have a daughter, so they gave me a lot of wholesome dads and daughter content, right. That's one. Two is, they gave me a lot of jokes about English and Mandarin. So all these like bad Mandarin speakers, these fluent Americans speaking perfect Mandarin next to a terrible Asian guy who can't speak Mandarin, horrible, horrific criminal Chinese puns. It was just bad and then followed by, I said VC influencers doing memes to explain the current market. I was stuck on TikTok at some point, so I'm the opposite. I was using TikTok and I moved it to the last page because I was using way too much. I switched up the notifications and then at some point I had to delete TikTok because I just wasn't getting anything done with TikTok. So I can only access TikTok on my laptop browser. And I've gated myself to like 15 minutes of TikTok a day. So that's, that's where I ended it.
Shiyan Koh: (05:07)
Wow. I'm clearly not the target audience because even though it is on the first page of my home screen, I don't use it anymore after my search experiment. So, maybe I will tune my feed more. I mean, if I could have Turner serving me up memes, I would be on that thing all day long.
Jeremy Au: (05:29)
Yeah, I think that's the power of it. Is that just this Darwinistic natural selection of the best content? So niched and targeted. I was talking to this founder, he's building a social network for neighbors, and he was talking about how he surfed social networks and I talked to him and it just clicked for me. As I said, it looks like TikTok is a social network, but it's not social at all. On Facebook, if I add somebody, we kind of like our society, both two humans., but on TikTok, I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to ghosts of real, actual human beings. This person made this content a year ago and I just happened to log in and because I understand Mandarin and English, I like these puns. So this thing is, this ghost fragment comes over and just hangs out with me. But it's not, this person does not know me at all.
I obviously get a fragment of it anyway. So I think the joke is that TikTok is a best-in-class social network, but it's not the network. It's full of ghosts, right? And I say the biggest task of it is if, at least before Facebook did algorithm newsfeed and everything, of course. If the world ended tomorrow and you're the one person left, Facebook will just end because the newsfeed used to be time ranked, but if the world ended tomorrow and you were just in your bunker, you'll still have TikTok and you'll still think the whole world is going on wonderfully because it's just serving you all the content as if everyone's still around in their life.
Shiyan Koh: (06:51)
Oh gosh. How depressing. I encourage everyone to come out from behind their screens and interact with real human, physical people.
Jeremy Au: (07:01)
Come on. Real physical humans are so tough. Your neighbors are loud, they're noisy. They have kids are running around.
Shiyan Koh: (07:08)
It's just the world we live in, man.
Jeremy Au: (07:09)
For now. Our meet space.
Shiyan Koh: (07:13)
I like the meet space. Maybe this dates me. Maybe this makes me a fuddy-duddy.
Jeremy Au: (07:20)
Are you gonna hang out with these perfect, wonderful people? Me doing dance moves, and there is some music my neighbor is like, we have a passive-aggressive relationship.
Shiyan Koh: (07:30)
I mean, I don't know. I feel like we're getting to the age. So my daughter is six and she now wants the iPad all the time. We only allow two hours of TV a week. Friday night is movie night. And then they can choose, and it's mostly Netflix. They get to choose what they want, but they only get that. But the rest of the time, when they have free time, they're always can we have the iPad? Can we have the iPad? I was like, no, you cannot. This got to a crazy moment where she and her brother found where we had hidden the iPad, took it upstairs and were silently watching Peppa Pig or Daniel Tiger or something in their room. And then the helper caught them and confiscated the iPad and told on them. And I was like, this is getting out of control.
So I told her, I said, you know what, the internet technology is like cake. You know when that first slice of cake is delicious, but if you have too much cake, it makes you feel sick. I was like, mama is gonna help you understand how to harness technology for good and not have it make you feel sick. Okay? So no stealing the iPad. So I don't know if that's gonna work, but she's thinking about it. She's reflecting on it.
Jeremy Au: (08:49)
Well, a similar spot to me as that. I think we haven't figured it out yet, but for sure our 10-month-old daughter definitely was really interested in the phone, which is highly motivating for her. That's how we motivate her to crawl, it’s to put a phone her one side of the room and she's just leopard crawling away, like a good soldier towards that phone device. I was just like, well, I can't motivate her to food or anything but that phone at 10 months.
Shiyan Koh: (09:15)
They want it. And then it's also just like you, I think about what example we're setting, right? This is like, when I'm with them, I need to put my own phone away because otherwise, I'm demonstrating to them that this phone is fascinating. It's more interesting than they are. But I don't know. I guess we should probably talk about the meat of the issue. Jeremy, on TikTok.
Jeremy Au: (09:35)
But that is the meat of what it is doing to our children.
Shiyan Koh: (09:43)
Yeah. I mean, I think the ostensible reason he is testifying is the threat to national security and privacy and, I guess potential to harm the children.
Jeremy Au: (09:55)
Yeah, but that's exactly it, right? It's like there's a lot of different motivations to it and they're all kind of coming nicely together, which is like yeah, national security, which is Protect America. The second one is obviously China. And then third, like you said, what's it doing to our children? And I think at least been three. That was Facebook a year ago, right? There was Instagram, the whistleblowers I mean, it wasn't that long ago, I remember from the presentation and then everybody was jumping on them, and you're having a debate whether beauty standards were being morphed and whether was driving suicide and depression amongst young kids. So Facebook was congress testifying, right? We had the powerpoints, the presentations leaks, it was interesting.
Shiyan Koh: (10:35)
Yeah, but then nothing happened and it continues. So I mean, I don't think that the children thing, like, let's be honest. If it weren't for the China thing, would they be pursuing TikTok at all? This rare moment of bipartisan unity where everyone can win points with their constituents by bashing China and raising the spectre of China, mining their data as something to, I mean, that's why I think 31 states have banned from their state employee devices and Biden has banned it from federal employee devices. So I mean, I don't know. I think this is like people trying to score points on something that everyone can be united against, but it's not really clear to me. They tried to do this in 2020 with Trump.
They tried to ban WeChat and there was actually a lawsuit by WeChat users who said that it violated their First Amendment rights to be prevented from using WeChat. And so they stopped the ban on WeChat. Yeah. So I don't really know. I think if there is enough fervour, patriotic fervour, they can ban it. I mean, India banned TikTok, 2020 among other Chinese games and applications. Although I thought India's was a bit more of a protectionist measure than a sort of political, geopolitical point-scoring exercise. But I don't know. Do you think he's the first Singaporean to testify in front of Congress? I mean, what a unique experience.
Jeremy Au: (12:10)
Ooh. I mean, most, that's what I was thinking too. Most people may not know this guy, but Shou Zi Chew is Singaporean, a Harvard MBA, and he might be, the people out there who also understand Chinese funds all celebrate. Yeah, I mean it's a crazy thing, and yeah, he could be the first Singaporean CEO, at least to testify before Congress.
Shiyan Koh: (12:37)
I think this is also a bit of a show, right? Because I think the journal said Committee Chair Cathy Rogers, Republican, Washington, and other lawmakers planned to lay out the threat posed by TikTok to Americans, National Security and Privacy asked what Mr. Chew could say during Thursday's hearing to change lawmakers' minds aide said there was basically nothing. I mean, so you know, this whole thing is Wayang, right?
Jeremy Au: (13:11)
Well, It's not gonna change her mind, but it can change the mind of American voters who are also part of a constituency and a part of upcoming elections in one year's time. And they could change her mind. I think there's a crux to it. There's, there's, I mean, literally for the first time ever, the CEO came out on TikTok. I was watching him on TikTok, and literally comes out and Uber-style lobbying goes out there by appealing to all users. Not all users by the way. He appeals to American users to lobby and talk to their local representatives. And he says stuff like there's 150 million Americans, which is like half of America which is crazy if you think about it. It's like turning up. You love your memes, you love your dance moves. And by the way, we support lots of local businesses, small, and medium enterprises and obviously, he's like lobbying hard. For the first time ever, TikTok has always been defensive on its PR. It's always been behind-the-scenes lay low. It's never ever done this American style like, let's push back. Let's activate the base, and I think this is gonna be a really powerful thing because I thought it was a compelling narrative.
I thought it was obviously you can't say, I mean a hundred fifty million folks, and these are primarily Gen Z,. These are voters that both parties are fighting for. He switched on his California accent for most of the video, but by the second half his Singapore coming through the first, that 10 seconds, I was like, what is it? Does the American accents coming through, he's working hard, right? It's the marketing team, is like, I don't know. I don't know what the lights were lighting, but they were like working hard. Soon after this, can you imagine all the memes, all the influencers, they're gonna do songs? TikTok is gonna do a song called like, don't Take My TikTok. People are gonna dance to it. It becomes the hottest thing. Like, I don't know, I think the legislators are like, I don't know if they're gonna know what's gonna hit them. 150 million young folks, in the elections coming up, this could even determine the election if you think about it.
Shiyan Koh: (15:07)
This requires young people to actually vote, which historically, young voter turnout has not been great. If you want to get them to play pranks, they will. I think there was that Trump rally where all the TikTokers and the BTS fans, or sign up for all of the tickets and then Trump had to address an empty arena or something. I worry about this in that this is the world that our children will grow up in, which is you are really having to sort through what is true and what story that is being told to me versus what I really believe or what are these people's motivations in pushing these narratives. There's a lot of, I don't know, media awareness that has to be taught to people these days that I don't think we had to face when we were kids.
Jeremy Au: (15:51)
Yeah. And I think that's the deeper anxiety of it. Right? Like you said, there's so many different threads of it, but this obviously reminds me of the prohibition movement when they banned all alcohol in America and it was a crazy time.
Shiyan Koh: (16:04)
Except for the church. The church got to keep it for communion.
Jeremy Au: (16:11)
Hey, it's not wine when you take it right? It becomes the body of Christ and the blood of Christ. So, I think where of course it was, I think obviously historically there's a lot of different camps of it. So obviously at that time it was not just the folks who were obviously moralistic about alcohol, but actually, there's a lot of suffragists.People who are pro-women rights, who are anti-male domestic abuse and alcohol abuse were there. They were health reformers who were there as part of that camp. They were obviously protectionists import and export economics guys. So it's actually a really big tent. Obviously, we zoom out, we're like, oh, it's a moral thing.
There were a lot of healthy people and a lot of women. All the women's rights groups at that point of time supported that because men were the ones drinking it, and it was just an interesting dynamic. So, I think it reminds me of, this is like, the deep underlying level is this impacts our children. What are they consuming? This drives a lot of the lawmaker behaviour from my perspective.
Shiyan Koh: (17:06)
That's a very kind interpretation, Jeremy. I think there's many other things impacting children that lawmakers are not paying attention to, like guns maybe, teachers going on strike or inadequate school funding, but this is a much more politically fun and salient point to make to people.
Jeremy Au: (17:24)
That's what you said earlier, right? The big difference of course is that when it comes to firearms obviously they have a long constitutional belief in this and understanding of it. So I think it's a heritage. It is part of the community. Technology is scary. The future is scary and behind it, you don't know what an algorithm is. Like you said, I think one more angle group I want to add to this obviously is the interesting dynamic between, say, protectionism on the Indian side, but also the equal rules of the internet side. So, Nir Eyal wrote a book “Hooked” and obviously he wrote this follow-up book, “Indistractable”. So “Hooked” was about how to be very addictive to users, and then “Indistractable” is about how parents and other folks can help the kids and themselves be less distracted by this. Great guy.
He's been on the podcast. He's obviously been in the events as well. He's based in Southeast Asia currently. He talks about, he's actually pro-regulation of TikTok, so he talks about all that stuff. He says he's come on the show, he's been a record and says one big part driving it is that American social media companies are not allowed in China. So, Chinese-owned social apps shouldn't have the same treatment in the US. I thought it was really interesting because it's not a protectionist argument. This is actually why I call the equal access tit for tat.
Shiyan Koh: (18:41)
Except big their big US presence is through their acquisition of a US company musically. So, are you going to stop? Are you going to stop all? I mean, maybe that's what CFIUS is gonna do, right? So the CFIUS is like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US. I think it’s what it stands for, but they sort of legislate on who gets to buy things. Who gets to buy American assets? Yeah well, that's not where I thought you were gonna go. I thought you were gonna go with this thing around social media apps should shut people off when they know that they've been consuming it too much.
Jeremy Au: (19:20)
I think that's totally fair. And, I think that argument is more for a broader social media regulation, which I'm fine with, right? Like, equal rules for all and that's what you know, it's like, like seat belts, right? Seat belts. Nobody wanted to install seat belts until the government said, yo, these cars are killing way too many people or injuring them and we have to pay for them somehow. And everybody's frustrated about it. Let's mandate, a minimum requirement for seatbelts. And obviously, after that it mandated safer steering wheels that don't like, impale you immediately in a car accident, they mandated airbags. And indeed, so I think there's some sort of safety standard requirement, right? And I think that the royal government is like creating fair rules for everybody. I think that's a totally fair requirement.
Shiyan Koh: (19:59)
Yeah, Americans might argue it is their right to consume as many dance videos as they wish. Who are you to impinge on my right to do this?
Jeremy Au: (20:13)
Well, do you become a parent for a two-year-old? Just figure out how to open up the app and so on and so forth. This has so many different layers. I mean, if you ask me should there be more regulations on social media? Yeah. I think as long as it's democratically convened and decided I'm sure it's a lot of sausage-making process that's very, very painful, but I think it's equal rules. Then I'm sure everybody knows what to do, right?
Shiyan Koh: (20:39)
Yeah. I don't know. I mean, does this really result in them banning TikTok?
Jeremy Au: (20:48)
I mean, they just do some stuff. What you could just say is that all servers, all data stays in the US, all algorithms for all social media open source. I think that solves 90% of it. I mean it peels off enough camps, which removes the transparency advocates. It respects the data privacy requirements and advocates camp.
Shiyan Koh: (21:14)
But just because the data is in the US doesn't mean that you can't stop management from looking at the data and you, I don't think you can stop management from sharing the data back to your Chinese parents, can you?
Jeremy Au: (21:27)
Yeah, but I think when it comes to national security concerns, the awkward reality is that everybody's spying on each other. So, they're literally like internet cables all around the world that literally have boxes attached to them that suck up all the information in crypto unencrypted, and they are decrypted wherever they are. Those are in the WikiLeaks. Diplomatic cables are a well-known secret. I mean, are you really saying it's not getting sent around? Yeah. You should just assume. Oh, well, okay. Another way of saying this is that there's a reason research paper, and basically this American University professor has, if there's a wifi signal, they can actually see you in a room, as they can actually see what you're doing in a room based on the wifi. And it was reported by The Economist and it was funded by the American government. I don't think it wasn't a company doing it. I was like, oh no the conspiracy is right. Remove all routers from your room.
Shiyan Koh: (22:27)
Put on your tin hat. Put on your tinfoil hat, Jeremy. Protect yourself from the signals.
Jeremy Au: (22:34)
I know, but the problem is like, yeah, I've seen startups that are able to track you exactly where you are in the mall based on your map, your bluetooth map. So, it's kind of bonkers if you think about it, and after I saw that, I just deleted most of the apps on my phone because I don't want to share all that stuff. I mean, I'm sure it's gonna show me being very boring going to the supermarket and going to daycare and stuff like that, but I'm like, okay, I don't know. So, do you think that there's gonna be a ban? What's your prediction?
Shiyan Koh: (23:07)
I find it very hard to see there is a ban. Maybe they force the sale, but even that doesn't really accomplish anything, you're just gonna get sued. You're gonna get tied up in the courts and then, oh, by the way, it's time for the next election and it's onto the next shiny object that we can fight about and score political points on. I don't know, but maybe I'm underestimating the desire of US lawmakers to make a point in this China-US conflict struggle. I don't know what the right word is to describe this. What's your prediction?
Jeremy Au: (23:46)
I think that the TikTok pushback can be huge.
Shiyan Koh: (23:50)
So you're predicting a grassroots wave of users demanding their rights.
Jeremy Au: (23:59)
I mean, legislators already got pushback from Uber users when there were bans and many of them literally folded in many ways just from folks just writing messages via the Uber in-app messaging. They made it easier to send it to a thing. I mean, can you imagine if TikTok just puts a button saying, “Sign this petition, it's gonna be huge.” I mean you can imagine like 15 million folks, at least one-third of them. Everyone knows the TikTok conversion rate is pretty hard. So maybe in this case, the conversion rate is going to be the saving grace for US legislators. Can you imagine that? And the election is down to a single percentage point for this next election based on the polling, one percentage point is there.
Yeah, you're right. Even though like they don't turn out, but in a swing state, they're at home, whatever. I don't see this happening before, okay, I'll say I don't think it'll happen before the presidential campaign. It's like when they say, you don't want to be the dog that catches the car, I think if they mention doing that before the thing like you said, it'll be stuck in cards, everyone must be pissed for a year. There'll be some great TikTok dancers though if it happens, if they try to push the ban.
Shiyan Koh: (25:08)
Please post them in the show notes. Please show the grassroots efforts. I would like to see them.
Jeremy Au: (25:14)
It will be like people doing the Y-M-C-A. But they'll be doing F-R-E-E, free my TikTok or something. I don't know. I'm trying my best here.
Shiyan Koh: (25:24)
What's the reception? Have users responded to his message on TikTok?
Jeremy Au: (25:30)
I was looking at TikTok, the comments, obviously, I think there's both the American insights and then there's a global side. The tricky part is when, for a lot of this stuff you also don't know who's human, who's not. That's why that's on another level. Even though TikTok just announced that they're banning all AI in human likenesses, any non-human on the thing, which is just kind of a joke and hilarious. Anyway, by the way, as I said, we have, we allow human ghosts, but we don't allow AI ghosts on TikTok anyway.
Shiyan Koh: (25:58)
And how can they tell?
Jeremy Au: (26:00)
Yeah, exactly, there's some dark irony here as well, but I think what's interesting here is as you said earlier, TikTok is a very diffused kind of advertising medium even today. A lot of people use it for brand awareness, but they don't use it to drive conversions for their websites and stuff like that because TikTok is so sticky. I mean, the reason why TikTok is so popular is that it doesn't share its vision and traffic with other platforms, so one short-form video as a medium is just way less click trhough rates than Instagram text, right? So that's one. And then two, TikTok is very good at keeping them on TikTok. So I don't know. You can imagine a scenario where, again, they create a button called the lobby button within TikTok and it does a lot of stuff within TikTok. Like, drop your email to your senator facing a location. I mean, if they did that, can you imagine like 10 million emails going out. It will break the internet but if they try to force people, like you said, to do in-person action, I think there's a much lower conversion rate.
Shiyan Koh: (27:06)
Yeah. I mean, I would be curious to hear what our listeners think. So I guess this is an invitation to our listeners, what's your prediction on what's going to happen, but also maybe more locally, like, should TikTok be banned in Singapore? Why or why not?
Jeremy Au: (27:24)
First of all, it's a great job source.An employer in Singapore EDB works very hard for their visa program to attract talent from across the region.
Shiyan Koh: (27:36)
Okay, fine. Different question. Should it be regulated? If TikTok knew that someone was spending more than two hours a day on the app, should they cut them off for a 24-hour period? Maybe two hours a day. Dude, that's like a lot of time to be watching 15-second videos or whatever.
Jeremy Au: (27:56)
I'm a big believer in general rules, so any app on your phone that you use for more than two hours should let you jump out, right and suddenly stop being on Slack.
Shiyan Koh: (28:18)
China did it for the games. They did it for the games because the children were spending too much time playing games. So now your user is like, I don't know, under 16 or something, you have to lock them out after a while.
Jeremy Au: (28:34)
It was huge, I mean, it goes back to protecting the children and educational outcomes. So would you support that Shiyan? Would you, instead of being like mommy doesn't only allow you two hours of screen time a week, It's more like the government doesn't allow you two hours of screen movie slash entertainment time a week.
Shiyan Koh: (28:57)
I mean, I'm okay enforcing it on my kids. But I don't know. I don't think it's a terrible thing to say. We don't like knowingly allowing gambling addicts to go into the casino, right? There's a gambling hotline, but there is a bar for kids. So if you're under 16 and you're displaying addictive behaviour on some of these like games and sites, I don't think it's a crazy thing to say we're going to cut them off. Then there's all the questions like, ah, they just create another identity. They'll lie about their age. They'll do all this stuff, but at least you create a little bit of friction to try to lower it.
Jeremy Au: (29:38)
That's true. I didn't think about that. Like smoking, right? Obviously, there's an age limit, there's taxation.
Shiyan Koh: (29:43)
So don't eliminate it altogether, but make it a little bit harder for people to do because it's not great for them.
Jeremy Au: (29:5)
Oh, let's tax TikTok, sorry. For every minute you spend on TikTok, you pay 1 cent to mommy and daddy, and that's okay because that's okay, but then to like a five-year-old kid. It's like all their pocket money for the week and they start for the week. I was not a very good person with pocket money when I was a young kid. I would be like, I remember when they moved me out from daily pocket money to weekly pocket money, that was a really tough time. I got to stay on Friday.
Shiyan Koh: (30:23)
Yeah. Did you run out of money and then you had to drink water on Friday only?
Jeremy Au: (30:28)
Yeah, effectively. I mean, it was like my best friend and me, one of us got a monthly allowance, one of us got a weekly allowance and so we would trade our money, pocket money because we would run out at the end of the week. So the guy, the monthly one would do, but basically like, and then at the second half of the month, the Mondays, Tuesdays, the money flowed all the way around, but the fourth week, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was a tough time. We were like basically both in debt.
Shiyan Koh: (30:56)
What did you spend your money on? I feel like there wasn't that much to spend money on. Like, how many bowls of mie could you eat?
Jeremy Au: (31:02)
You know yong tau too is expensive, right? So they charge per piece of tofu and vegetable and meat. You imagine taxation on social media, maybe that's one age limit.
Shiyan Koh: (31:16)
It's regressive, taxation is regressive.
Jeremy Au: (31:21)
You could do age-limit verification, which they kind of already do to some extent, right? I mean a lot of movies or so they have advisory, like, content has to be age-graded. YouTube as well.
Shiyan Koh: (31:31)
Violence is okay, but sex is not.
Jeremy Au: (31:33)
I do improvisational comedy and I had to get a lot of guidelines on what you can do on stage where I can't do on stage because of these guidelines in Singapore. Literally, it's kind of interesting because you have to improvise comedy, but you also, in the back of your head, you're like, okay, these are like the media markers of what you can show or not show.
Shiyan Koh: (31:53)
I'll have to come to watch a show, Jeremy. What risque things are you saying while you're on stage?
Jeremy Au: (32:00)
Only implied risky activities that adults will get, but children will be like, oh, okay. That's totally normal.
Shiyan Koh: (32:07)
Are there children at your improv performances?
Jeremy Au: (32:10)
Now that you mentioned it, I don't think there’s any age checks or anything. I mean, the audience I've seen so far has always been adults, but there's nothing preventing children from signing up. Let's not bring the eye to regulatory oversight. Like the eye of Sauron, just like the pivot from TikTok towards improvisational comedy. This is actually a very fair debate because we're saying what is the intent of the regulatory requirement, right? Like you said, protecting children, and that's about age-grade taxation, all this stuff happens, right?
Shiyan Koh: (32:52)
I would be open to kids, but I don't think that, to go back to the original topic, right? I just don't think that that addresses Congress' concerns about data security and privacy. That doesn't actually solve any of that.
Jeremy Au: (33:08)
I think it is a small camp, and I think you can, as I said, there's a bunch of moves you can do that give them a win, and that's the most important thing. It's like you say, you do the show and then Mark Zuckerberg went on to Congress. He also did the show. We got a lot of memes about him. Oh wait, you're right. They're gonna be memes.
Shiyan Koh: (33:29)
You better pull up TikTok, you need to get your meme fixed.
Jeremy Au: (33:38)
I think it reminds me that there is a bit of a moral panic. There still hasn't been resolved for social media. As you said.
Shiyan Koh: (33:43)
Yeah. I mean, I think this idea that you can basically create these very perfect fictionalized worlds where people project versions of themselves that they want, can make other people feel depressed, inadequate, all those sorts of things. There's a lot of research on that. But it is funny, right?
Jeremy Au: (34:03)
I was gonna say, as compared to normal humans who are around you, who bully and make you depressed for not being part of the norm because, I mean, TikTok and social media, they're very socially progressive. They accept you for whoever you are because you know the echo chamber affirms your identity. You would've read it and you're like, you're really into like for me improvisational comedy, I hang out with a bunch of improv comedy nerds, and I'm like, oh, I'm not a weirdo anymore. I have 10,000 friends across the world. I mean, there's the power of social media and even for TikTok, you feel affirmed.
Shiyan Koh: (34:39)
I don't know if I feel affirmed and maybe I don't spend enough time on it, but I'm pretty glad I didn't have it when I was a teenager.
Jeremy Au: (34:47)
But you had the internet and the internet was free. Anybody could do whatever they want on the internet.
Shiyan Koh: (34:52)
Yeah, but the internet was slow and I have much less stuff. You forget I'm old.
Jeremy Au: (34:58)
I was on the bulletin boards and everybody was like, remember the internet when everything was free? Everybody was for sure human. All of us were weirdos writing on the internet. Then we had Blogger, Blogspot, LiveJournal, and Tumblr. I mean, I've written some real diary reflections out there about my secondary school. I would put song lyrics there, which kind of implied I like somebody, and I was hopeful that a person would read it and I know it was free time.
Shiyan Koh: (35:39)
I mean, I do know. So I went back to my secondary school and there's a club now, the Internet Safety Club, and it's like their mission is to educate other girls about the dangers of the internet. I was like, wow, this definitely, this is not a CCA that existed when I was in school. It must be called something else. It's not so stark, but it is, that's essentially their mission is to help people understand. I think that that's a real thing too. Like, I don't think people like the amplification that social media does on very normal teenage behaviours, I think can be a huge shock to people. So what used to be just like a mini-scandal or whatever in your group of friends can suddenly blow out to all these outside schools and outside people that don't know you, who have no context, anything. And it can be a much more wounding experience than in the past.
Jeremy Au: (36:33)
Oh, for sure. I mean, I think humans are designed to write stuff implied to sending a message in a bottle out to the ocean or to a few friends. I don't think they're geared toward the idea of a million people reading it and it just reminded me of the other thing that my school did. We were all part of the computer club, all nerds all weirdos doing Dreamweaver and coding websites and stuff, and then there was this moral panic, I don't remember, called LAN gaming. So students skip school, they'd go to the computer cafes where there were like 50 computers, and then there were bad influencers because they exposed the internet, which had who God knows who on there. Then, people were smoking in there and eating instant noodles. Very bad for you. So that's what we did somehow, I don't know what happened with the teacher and the club. We basically created this proposal. We said, let's legalize and bring computer gaming to our school.
And so we set up a computer gaming cafe on the basement level of the school. Totally school-run, operated, ad I was one of those people who was like, obviously set up internet filters, collect two bucks an hour. Incredible value, two bucks an hour, and it was like on campus. Anyway, literally we had the whole system, right? We had like the similar way you said. It's like if a teacher or parent called, or even a student called, we would block them and couldn't let them in. We had a time limit per week, say it was $2 an hour.
Shiyan Koh: (37:59)
Did you have instant noodles?
Jeremy Au: (38:02)
We did have noodles, but I mean, let's be real. In our cafeteria downstairs, if our fried chicken chop rice was absolutely worse than instant noodles, I would say especially with the cordial and all that stuff. That's how we legalized and made it good. Right. It became an amenity of the school like, look at our school, right?
Shiyan Koh: (38:20)
So like, did they let you play Counterstrike and violent games too?
Jeremy Au: (38:26)
Oh, for sure. As you said, violence is okay. There's just, there's just no sex. My violence was okay, we had Counter-Strike, Command and Conquer, and Renegade. Oh man, a lot of stuff there.
Shiyan Koh: (38:36)
I did not know this. This is a great story though. I like this.
Jeremy Au: (38:40)
Yeah. I mean, gotta say, remember like when you have an officer, scholar and gentleman, legally sectioned violence is okay that is a function of the state. Everything else, maybe not so much. Yeah, sorry, I'm just contrasting the Internet Safety Club and the computer gaming cafe.
Shiyan Koh: (39:04)
Well, I can't wait to hear what he says in front of Congress. So that'll be the next episode.
Jeremy Au: (39:13)
So I guess if you have one hope for the future, what would that be?
Shiyan Koh: (39:24)
I mean, I hope, we get our act together on climate change. That's my hope for the future, but that's not really related to the TikTok comment.
Jeremy Au: (39:37)
Hey, TikTok, Gen Z. They care about climate change.
Shiyan Koh: (39:39)
Yeah, it’s my hope that we actually get our act together on climate change beause I think we're getting really close to the edge on when we can still have an impact on the outcome.
Jeremy Au: (39:52)
Yeah. And on that note, yeah, climate change, TikTok is a huge educator, honestly, I think for Gen Z, right on this topic, I think the trick is action. I think my hope for the future is, my kids and by extension, everyone's kids know how to like, I don't know, use social media and devices wisely. I don't know. It's like driving a car. Sure, it's a transportation machine, but it can be a machine of suicide in terms of bad driving, and can be a machine of death.
Shiyan Koh: (40:25)
They have to take lessons and get a license before they can use social media.
Jeremy Au: (40:29)
Sorry, we're just replicating a lot of Chinese policies with this metaphor because now you're like, you need to get socially certified by the state. You have a license plate number, a unique number into that. Sorry. Like, in order, I don't know.
Shiyan Koh: (40:50)
Well, you have to do it for financial things, right? You have to certify that you're an accredited investor to do riskier financial products. Yeah. So I don't know. It's not an insane idea. Like it wouldn't be bad. Like, imagine that you had to take a fake news test before you could use social media.
Jeremy Au: (41:14)
So many people fail this. I can barely keep on top of it, honestly.
Shiyan Koh: (41:20)
It's kind of an interesting idea. I don't know.
Jeremy Au: (41:27)
The fake news test. I mean, you're becoming a defender of POFMA in Singapore. How did you define what is true use?
Shiyan Koh: (41:36)
Whoa. Now you're just taking things a bit far here.
Jeremy Au: (41:42)
I know, but someone's going to decide what's fake and what's real. I'm just saying. On that positive note, we'll see you next week again.
Shiyan Koh: (41:54)
All right, good Jeremy. Bye.