TikTok’s ownership by Chinese conglomerate, Bytedance, has become a subject of heightened scrutiny over the last few months. There are two sides to this.
On one end, it’s encouraging to see the US taking a strong stance against China’s own internet policies. Historically, Chinese policies have been off-balance and provided leverage for the region to operate as they please. Google is a great example of this… it operated in China from 2006 until 2010 when it was banned from the region due to censorship amongst other reasons. If you want to explore further, here’s the full timeline. Compound this with the latest CNBC survey that suggests that 1 out of 5 companies are claiming that China has stolen their IP within the last year (link). If you look deep enough, you realize the issue with tariffs from 2018 has a lot more to do with the US’s attempt to protect their IP than it is about actually taxing the goods being imported.
On the other hand, don’t ban it but aim to make an example out of it. Here’s a great NYT article that captures this ethos. In short, banning TikTok alone doesn’t really help. The author makes a fair argument that “If TikTok is a threat, so are WeChat, Alibaba and League of Legends, the popular video game, whose maker, Riot Games, is owned by China’s Tencent. And since banning every Chinese-owned tech company from operating in America wouldn’t be possible without erecting our own version of China’s Great Firewall — a drastic step that would raise concerns about censorship and authoritarian control — we need to figure out a way for Chinese apps and American democracy to coexist.”
Further suggesting that “Instead of banning TikTok, or forcing ByteDance to sell it to Americans, why not make an example of it by turning it into the most transparent, privacy-protecting, ethically governed tech platform in existence?”
There’s no simple or easy answer. Whether or not the ban will go through remains to be seen. The mechanics of banning it indefinitely will be a challenge. There’s also a 3rd dimension to this whole thing with Microsoft willing to make an acquisition offer for TikTok US…
One thing is clear: banning the app will likely exacerbate the cold war between US and China.
We’re already seeing an uptick of new video and social apps popping up as top downloaded on the App Store. This screenshot was taken today, Aug 2, 2020.