Tick Tock TikTok – The Rush To Ban TikTok

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Is this about divestment, banning or digital sovereignty (or a little mix of everything)?

In a landmark move, United States President, Joe Biden, has signed into law a bill demanding TikTok‘s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest its U.S. operations or face a ban.

Security concerns vs. free speech.

The U.S. (and many other countries) has expressed longstanding fears that TikTok could serve as a conduit for the Chinese government to harvest data from its 170 million American users or manipulate the app’s algorithm to influence public opinion.
There has been voiced concerns about ByteDance’s alleged ties to the Chinese government, suggesting that TikTok could be used for espionage or to sway public sentiment.

TikTok’s defense…

The company robustly denies any wrongdoings or influence from the Chinese government.
The company argues that a ban would infringe on Americans’ First Amendment rights, a stance previously upheld by a Montana judge who blocked a state-level TikTok ban for violating free speech.
TikTok has vowed to challenge the new law in court, arguing its unconstitutionality.
The legal battles will likely hinge on the government’s ability to demonstrate a clear and present national security threat that justifies such a drastic measure.
The outcome could set a precedent not only for TikTok but for international business operations and digital sovereignty on a global scale.

Some personal musings about this (I should have made a TikTok!):

  1. Meta and Google are popping corks.
    • If this happens, big tech consolidates the media.
    • Billions of dollars and a tremendous amount of (additional) power goes to the same companies that this government has been eyeing for having too much power (not sure how this becomes a “win”).
  2. What’s good for TikTok must be good for everyone else.
    • If one of the main concerns is that TikTok is brainwashing the youth or holding back on certain perspectives as a form of propaganda, those same rules should apply not just to TikTok’s competition but all media (good luck with that).
    • TikTok’s issues around moderation and data privacy concerns are hardly unique to this one platform (would anyone disagree with that?).
  3. It’s all about the algorithm.
    • Anyone who has spent any time on TikTok knows that the success of the platform is rooted in the algorithm.
    • ByteDance will never sell the algorithm.
    • So, someone will be buying just the users and the content (which – as anyone in media knows – rarely works out well).
  4. Why does the ownership have to be US-based?
    • Could it not be owners from Canada, the UK, Australia, etc. (if TikTok is one of the most power media companies right now, is this really about data and security… or power?).
  5. Pay close attention the creators and their audience.
    • TikTok is excellent at recommending videos from accounts without a huge audience/following (thanks, algorithm) and these creators (and most of them are not media professionals) might lose their voice and potential to build differing perspectives if they even could do the same on other platforms.

We are in the digital age.

Data and these AI tools are as strategic a resource as oil once was.
This TikTok saga is a bellwether for how deeply digital platforms can embed themselves into the social fabric of a nation — and how fiercely governments might fight to control them.
So… we will have to decide…

Privacy and security or power and control?

This is what Elias Makos and I discussed on CJAD 800 AM. Listen in right here.

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