News USA TikTok… globalization is running out of time

TikTok… globalization is running out of time

Perhaps one day we will remember the spectacle of the interrogation of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which took place on March 23 in the US Congress, as a turning point in the history of globalization. During more than five hours of aggressive questioning, Chew — who is not Chinese, but from Singapore — magnificently defended the fact that his company is China in the face of Congress’s limited understanding of the technological world.

The Biden administration views TikTok as a potential national security threat and wants the Chinese company that owns the short video app, ByteDance, to sell the platform to a US company or face a potential ban. Chew, however, proposes that ByteDance retain majority control of TikTok, but leave its US operations to tech giant Oracle, which would store all US user data on its servers and control how TikTok’s algorithms recommend content. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has said it will oppose a forced sale.

But the likelihood of Chew’s Texas Project convincing Congress or President Joe Biden seems remote. American policy makers are not very confident in the intentions of the Chinese government… for good reason. For years Chinese hackers, allegedly with state support, have relentlessly attacked the US government and companies, siphoning off billions of dollars of intellectual property. Although hard numbers are hard to come by, the pervasiveness of Chinese hacks set off alarm bells from experts around the world, especially in ASEAN countries.

But railing against TikTok can be easier than banning it. With 150 million US users it is one of the most popular apps in the country. According to recent data, American adults spend an average of 56 minutes a day on the platform. From a domestic policy standpoint, there is a gigantic difference between the proposed ban on TikTok and the recent US ban on the sale and import of video and communications equipment from Chinese manufacturers like Huawei.

Besides the multitude of tiktokers who make a living on the platform and would become collateral victims in the event of a ban, the app is extraordinarily popular with voters under 30, with polls indicating that nearly two-thirds of young people oppose a ban . Since that age group is heavily Democratic, their opposition could affect Biden’s re-election chances. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is supported by millennials and members of Gen Z, has already signaled her rejection of the ban (of course, she voiced her concerns via TikTok).

Chew certainly earned points among the youngsters. If the goal of banning TikTok is to protect American voters from being spied on and manipulated, he argued, then Congress should devise a plan that also addresses abuses by US-based platforms (who are accused of mouths salivate at the prospect of their biggest competitor being kicked out of the country). After all, the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed that Facebook’s misinformation and privacy violations ultimately helped former US President Donald Trump win the 2016 election. And psychologist Robert Epstein argued that the search engine Google manipulated voters in favor of Democratic candidates (although the quantitative impact of this fact is debatable).

Chew, then, is right. It seems that all social media platforms should be regulated by the Government. The Federal Trade Commission is considering a crackdown on trade surveillance and unsafe data management practices by tech giants, while Twitter — long a deep problem as a source of misinformation and smear — has likely gotten worse. since Elon Musk bought it.

The growing and bitter rivalry between the US and China does not leave much room for an agreement that addresses the security concerns of both countries. For example, China could rethink its protectionist policies and allow US technology companies to operate in its home market, but that would jeopardize the authorities’ tight control over the information ecosystem. Similarly, the US could require that TikTok’s US operations be sold at a significant premium representing partial compensation for what the Chinese government called “theft”; But while this solution at least shows some respect for international law, it’s hard to win support, given that China never paid US companies for the intellectual property it stole from them for years.

Those who downplay the devastating effect that the US ban on TikTok could have do not understand the economics of social media. The ability of advertisers to reach US audiences is precisely what gives these platforms value. If one of them is outlawed, its value to advertisers disappears. While some users would undoubtedly attempt to circumvent the ban using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), this could be difficult and would not prevent lost advertising revenue.

TikTok is putting up a good fight, but it may lose it. US lawmakers are reportedly moving forward with their plans to ban the platform. While legitimate national security concerns associated with TikTok must be addressed, a direct ban would not prevent Americans from being spied on and manipulated. Unfortunately, it could also confirm the beginning of the end of the global Internet.

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