Mind-numbing TikTok videos may not be good for productivity or the intellectual health of society, but it turns out they could be indirectly helpful to Russia in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The Financial Times reports that the giant European arms manufacturer Nammo is being blocked from an expansion of its largest ammunition factory in Raufoss, Norway, because the local electricity allowance is being gobbled up by a data centre. And said data centre’s biggest client just so happens to be TikTok.
“We are concerned because we see our future growth is challenged by the storage of cat videos,” said Nammo chief executive Morten Brandtzæg in a beautifully blunt statement.
Nammo is currently seeing 15 times the demand for ammunition than it normally would, thanks to Ukraine getting through around 6,000 rounds per day. Apparently, it would take about ten times more if available, too, which makes the expansion of the factory somewhat necessary.
Data centres are big business in Nordic nations thanks to the (until recently) low cost of energy and the cold weather that makes keeping server temperatures down a bit cheaper.
But the super-high energy demand is a serious drain on other businesses. Elvia, the energy provider for the region, says that it has no capacity for Nammo’s expansion, having promised it to the data centre. That’s not because cat videos trump Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, it’s just the realities of ‘first come, first served.’
But it doesn’t help the common accusation that TikTok owner Bytedance is in the pocket of the Chinese government. China has been accused of supplying Russia with weapons, and now one of its biggest companies is hogging the energy that could be bolstering Ukraine’s defence.
Given Nammo is partly owned by the Norwegian government, it seems likely that a compromise will eventually be reached. “In this special matter, we will work to secure the supply Nammo needs to go forward with their plans and be able to expand its factory,” Per-Gunnar Sveen, from the county council of Innlandet, told the paper.
But the data problem isn’t going away. The billions of videos on YouTube and TikTok — not to mention all those files saved to cloud storage platforms — have to be stored somewhere. If we end up prioritising the ability for everyone to store trillions of forgettable photos and videos over everything else, then we deserve everything we get.