TikTok Challenge
August 8, 2020 1:48 AM   Subscribe

 
I am tech and I do not understand the appeal of all the different apps. My non-tech younger friends use Snapchat, Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook all for the same thing. It is a marketing nightmare to figure out the drive to do one and not the other.

I worked in high-end fashion on the merchandising side and there's a similar sort of mystique but it made sense. You might not be able to afford a Chanel handbag, but buy a relatively inexpensive high markup item and we'll give it to you in an expensive carryout bag. It appealed to the certain post-college first job, mainly female professional. The type who puts their lunch in a Chanel take out bag while riding the subway.

Since the differentiation in technology itself between Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and I guess now Reels is none, I really don't see the purpose on wanting to be on all these platforms.

I feel as if this is like when I had a crazy boss who would e-mail, and if I didn't respond immediately, Slack, and if it wasn't within 5 minutes text me. And then I'd respond to the e-mail, they'd accuse me of being "non-responsive" and I go I responded to the first communication, I did not follow up on every communication channel hoping that's the one that caught your fancy. We're training kids to be like that.
posted by geoff. at 2:42 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


geoff.: This piece by Eugene Wei is a really insightful look at the differences between the main social networking apps:
I like to say that “when you gaze into TikTok, TikTok gazes into you.” Think of all the countless hours product managers, designers and engineers have dedicated to growth-hacking social onboarding—goading people into adding friends and following people, urging them to grant access to their phone contact lists—all in an attempt to carry them past the dead zone to the minimum viable graph size necessary to provide them with a healthy, robust feed. (sidenote: Every social product manager has heard the story of Facebook and Twitter’s keystone metrics for minimum viable friend or follow graph size countless times.) Think of how many damn interest bubble UI’s you’ve had to sit through before you could start using some new social product: what subjects interest you? who are your favorite musicians? what types of movies do you enjoy?

The last time I tried to use Twitter’s new user onboarding flow, it recommended I follow, among other accounts, that of Donald Trump. There are countless ways they could onboard people more efficiently to provide them with a great experience immediately, but that is not one of them.

TikTok came along and bypassed all of that. In a two-sided entertainment marketplace, they provide creators on one side with unmatched video creation tools coupled with potential super-scaled distribution, and viewers on the other side with an endless stream of entertainment that gets more personalized with time. In doing so, TikTok, with a product team and infrastructure mostly located in China, came out of left field and became a player in the attention marketplace on the same playing fields around the world as giants like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Netflix. Not quite a Cinderella story...maybe a Mulan story?
posted by adrianhon at 3:06 AM on August 8 [24 favorites]


[Quick note on an earlier comment: we're asking people to remember that pejoratives like "crazy" or "insane" reinforce negative stereotypes about people living with mental health conditions (info), and to look for better words to use instead. Thank you!]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:39 AM on August 8 [21 favorites]


Horrifying whataboutism from Sarah Jeong:

"And in 2020, this is becoming a genuinely difficult question to answer. China is detaining over a million Uighurs in internment camps, citing national security issues. The United States detains migrants in its own internment camps, even going as far as to place children in cages. China is not a democracy; the American president has proposed to unconstitutionally delay this year’s election. China brutally represses its political dissidents; in America, law enforcement in military camouflage have grabbed protesters off the streets and shoved them into unmarked vans."

Jeong says on Twitter that after she was forced to research the comparison by a Verge editor's feedback on a previous draft: "My first reaction was, "Oh thank god, that's way fewer than the Uighurs that are detained in Xinjiang!" Then I felt sick to my stomach.

The difference is one of degree and not kind. Is that really something to feel *good* about?"


This reaction sounds like Jeong's research on PRC govt policy against the Uighurs was very shallow. If she had read more even a bit more deeply (or perhaps she did and is being disingenuous ) it would have been clear that PRC's treatment of its Uighur (and other Muslim minority) citizens is a lot worse in both degree and kind. That's not to excuse or overlook the Trump administration's ugly and terrible policies that have increased the suffering & violated the rights of of many migrants and asylum seekers (the US record here is still much better than the PRC's though - the PRC hasn't accepted any refugees for settlement since the early 80s and it would be very surprising if Jeong, a Korean-American, didn't know that the PRC arrests hundreds of North Koreans fleeing the DPRK regime every year, treats them as illegal economic migrants, and returns them to DPRK for brutal punishment, imprisonment or execution.)
posted by Bwithh at 4:09 AM on August 8 [30 favorites]


I live in New Zealand, Trump is also forcing Tiktok to sell it's NZ service to Microsoft too - frankly this is American cultural imperialism ... it's forcing all the english speaking Tiktok users into their own American bubble disconnected culturally from the rest of the world.

I'm also a regular WeChat user, I do business in China, in normal times visiting a few times a year - can't really do biz in China without it, shutting it down in the US (no sign of NZ yet thankfully) is basically another way trying to shut down business with China - I guess I'm going to have to buy a burner phone to use in the US.
posted by mbo at 5:25 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


If you are worried about apps, let me tell you about foreign direct investment...
posted by eustatic at 6:16 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


Some useful companion reading on the legal basis of all this on Lawfare Blog: TikTok and the Law: A Primer and Banning TikTok and WeChat: Another Primer.

As the second article notes, banning WeChat and its parent company Tencent is a much bigger deal. Tencent is all over the US including investments in Tesa, Reddit, Spotify, UMG, and a bunch of video game companies (including 100% of Riot Games). Because Trump doesn't do policy so much as random acts of performance art it's hard to know what the Tencent ban will really mean in practice. But if you read the EO it's quite broad.

Imagine an America where we decided all software and hardware built by Chinese companies is banned. It would not go well for us. We're already at the point where our mobile infrastructure is going to be years behind because of our head-in-the-sand plans around 5G hardware.

Final link: Trump Wants U.S. to Get Cut of Any TikTok Deal. No One Knows How That’d Work. In case you think there's any logic to Trump's statement this weeks.
In essence, the president is promising to orchestrate the kind of pay-to-play bounty that the United States prohibits companies from making to governments of other countries under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

And he is playing a role that is common among the autocratic leaders on whom he has often heaped praise: using the sheer power of his office to influence the private marketplace without clear legal or regulatory authority.
It's going to keep getting worse.
posted by Nelson at 6:46 AM on August 8 [18 favorites]


I know China blocks web content, but how would the US respond to China demanding that a Chinese company buy an American company, with the government taking a cut? This is pretty blatant .. something. It's not free trade. And Microsoft? I use Skype for a weekly meeting with friends; it does good on-the-fly captioning and the video and sync are better than Zoom. But Skype wants my contacts, it wants to run at startup and be on all the time, it's occasionally intrusive. Just imagine You love TikTok, but TikTok is way better on Edge!

thanks for the Eugene Wei piece, adrianhon.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


how would the US respond to China demanding that a Chinese company buy an American company

China has been doing that for years, only worse. They simply don't allow American companies to do business in China at all. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Google. Google used to have a sliver of an investment in Baidu, the Chinese search engine, and the Chinese government more or less forced them to get rid of that too.

The discussion about China's exclusion of American companies has mostly been framed in terms of free speech, censorship, and enforcement. That Twitter couldn't exist in China because people would talk about Tiananmen Square there and the American company wouldn't stop it. That had something to do with it, but mostly China's actions have been a shrewd form of trade protectionism to allow their own companies to develop. And to a large extent that has worked out. WeChat is a better company and set of products than Twitter. TikTok is certainly a much more successful video sharing system than Vine or Periscope ever will be (again, thanks Twitter.)

None of this justifies the US trying to do similar trade protectionism against Chinese companies in the US. We should be better than that.
posted by Nelson at 7:11 AM on August 8 [23 favorites]


We should be better than that.

This administration is not.

This is a blatant cash grab on one hand, and a ham-fisted attempt to assert American ownership of Yet More Internet Properties on the other. I’m just trying to figure out which social media network will become official state-sponsored media shortly here, but it’s looking like it’ll be Facebook.
posted by hijinx at 7:27 AM on August 8


I admit I’m baffled by the claims of “whataboutism” leveled at the article. it seemed clear to me that the point is China does awful things and that the US is gleefully using those awful things as political cover to do increasingly awful things that, while in the balance, are not nearly as bad but still utterly awful. if people are worried about the PRC having “ammo” against the US by talking about our ethical failings, let’s solve that by demanding the US not do the horrible shit?
posted by potch at 7:27 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


This is a topic on which I Have Thoughts. Here's a lightly edited and citations-added self-quote from a friend's Facebook post on the same topic who thinks this EO is a terrible idea (said friend is anti-Trump, lived in China for several years in my neighborhood, and is eminently sane):
----
I'm conflicted about this. Yes, "banning WeChat" is stupid (same with "banning TikTok"), god only knows how it would work with side-loading so common on Android (typed to you from a lightly hacked Huawei purchased in the mainland...), but like so many of the Orange Idiot's moves, there's also an underlying gut-level satisfaction that "somebody is finally doing something" about China's horrible internet behavior.

This is where the difference between TikTok and WeChat makes me think that there might be someone in the White House with a few firing synapses, and that in more competent hands, the Trump idiots might actually be on to something. Follow me here - TikTok's international operations are now separate from mainland operations, primarily because for months, people have been calling it a data security risk. Forcing ByteDance to sell also lops off future profitability, meaning that keeping user data in China is a business liability for them when operating outside China.

If the WeChat "transaction ban" is interpreted in the same way, and if other countries can be convinced to follow suit, then what you have is two quick whacks of a meat cleaver at two of the Chinese censorship apparatus's most powerful and profitable products. Note also that India has recently banned a whole pile of Chinese apps like WeChat from app stores for national security risks (separate issue, but for the purposes of this conversation, "China has already lost India").

If this continues, and China continues to lose major markets as a direct result of its shitty data privacy policies (store in China for 6 months, real name ID, zero encryption, unsupervised government access), if the world starts saying "companies who allow this can't operate here", that in turn means any company shown to do this for the Chinese government loses any chance at international spread and profitability, which in turn means they lose a major incentive to build them in the first place, and removes the fig leaf of "tech innovation" China has used to build its huge and very intrusive internet surveillance system. It also gets the rest of us looking at our own tech giants (hi Facebook) and asking the right questions about data privacy.

I don't in any way believe Trump or his senior staff are smart enough to pull off a strategy like that. He's a f**kin disaster and he has to go. But in the hands of a better, more credible diplomat, I think I see how this realpolitik strategy MIGHT lead to better things down the road. It sucks to be stuck in the middle of it, but something this far-reaching and blunt might be exactly the thing needed to jump-start a global, and Chinese, conversation about what China is doing with these apps and this data.
----
What I didn't say on FB, because it doesn't need saying among the China expat community, is that I am a daily user of WeChat. I have thousands of contacts, nearly everyone I've spoken to in the last 5 years, it's my RMB digital wallet of choice...and even though I no longer live in China, this would impact me.

Still, I left China because of COVID, but I decided I'm not going back because of Hong Kong and the recent oppressive turn in politics there. I hear and agree with what everyone is saying about how this bodes ill for internet freedom in the US and how this is just Trump flailing, but short of outright bans of Chinese apps by a multinational coalition, I'm not sure how to combat the rapidly expanding Chinese security state. When you use TikTok and WeChat, the Chinese police are watching, even abroad, and they will happily arrest you for things as minor as criticizing the police. Where allowed, the Chinese regime will kidnap people it doesn't like. WeChat is a took actively used by the CCP to mobilize the Chinese diaspora in coordinated United Front work, and it is used to keep tabs on dissidents everywhere, making it a far more potent tool for the regime than Facebook disinformation campaigns or laughable "wolf warrior diplomacy".

That stuff scares the hell out of me, and short of bans and some sort of global "digital containment" policy, I don't know what to do about it. I would be happy for someone to tell me I lack imagination, and I know Trump is a bumbling, desperate fool, but...from a realpolitik perspective, part of me agrees with moves to kneecap China's information control network outside its borders.
posted by saysthis at 8:00 AM on August 8 [45 favorites]


China has been doing that for years, only worse. They simply don't allow American companies to do business in China at all.

While state censorship and anti-competition measures can be hard to disentangle, it does seem like China's government is at least somewhat willing to allow US tech businesses to operate in their market as long as they don't provide uncensored information services. Apple, for example, is growing in China, and as of a couple years ago it was Microsoft's second-largest revenue source. Google was working on a censored search product for China called Dragonfly until public and internal pressure caused them to shut it down in 2019. US businesses outside of tech seem to do quite well selling things like cars and junk food in China.
posted by skymt at 8:28 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


> It is a marketing nightmare to figure out the drive to do one and not the other.

Banning TikTok: Are We Reproducing the Chinese Internet in America? - "Yes we need protection from TikTok and WeChat. But we also need protection from our own tech giants." (via)
As national security expert Lucas Kunce notes, Facebook is in fact the reason we have a TikTok problem to begin with. When Twitter launched a TikTok-like product Vine years before, Facebook actively killed the product by refusing to let Vine access its APIs on the same terms other corporations got. Mark Zuckerberg personally made the call to shut off access to Vine, and Twitter eventually shut the product down. Then, Facebook allowed TikTok to advertise massively on its platform, at a time Zuckerberg was currying favor with the Chinese Communist Party to try to get into the Chinese market. In other words, Zuckerberg killed an American competitor using anti-competitive means, and promoted a Chinese competitor for his own business interests.
> Yes, "banning WeChat" is stupid (same with "banning TikTok")

@interfluidity: "Apple, the US company with the most to lose from a WeChat/TikTok ban should examine with a fine-tooth comb and openly publish what those apps do in terms of data collection, dramatically tighten what it permits ANY app to do, then assert persuasively bans are unreasonable." cont'd...
All of what you say might be right [that CCP must be isolated & boycotted to the extent possible], but it still doesn't make a targeted ban of these two services make sense. Certainly they do not comprise the main levers of dependency that enables Chinese coercion of Western companies to remain silently complicit in abuses. If we want to address that, we have to decouple broadly.

If we want to address particular atrocities — China's treatment of Uighurs, repression in Hong Kong, China's various tools for internal discrimination, surveillance — then 1) you wouldn't choose two companies; and 2) you HAVE to condition the sanctions on the policies you mean to change. Punishing unconditionally is a like a Full Nelson in wrestling — justly banned because it hurts without offering submission as an out. You need the Half Nelson, which punishes but simultaneously offers a path to punishment's withdrawal.

The only justification offered for targeting these two, and only these two, firms has to do with their potential for CCP surveillance and information warfare. Which might be legit! But to the degree it is legit, we are wide open to that from all kinds of bad actors so long as Apple and Google fail to police it.

If you think because CCP is bad, we should take whatever actions against China that are politically possible, however pretextual the justification, I'd caution against that. There are economic interests bound up in these conflicts. It's hard to take a moral high-ground over the long-term when your policy doesn't make sense as means of supporting your high-minded ideals, but does have the immediate effect of giving Facebook stock a big lift, or getting Microsoft a popular social media property on the cheap.

If US is going to sanction China on human and political rights grounds (which I would broadly support by the way), or if it's going to decouple sufficiently to restore American supply chain resilience and economic independence (again, I'd support), it needs to pursue some policy framework visibly tailored to those objectives. Otherwise, it just looks like a smash-and-grab, and undermines our future capacity to apply coherent pressure if we ever have an administration that actually gives a fuck about misery and atrocity.
posted by kliuless at 8:46 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]


I have not heard anyone print this so maybe I am wrong but I just assumed Trump had it in for Tik Tok because of the role it played in making his rally in....I think Tulsa...into a joke by having all "the kids" signing up for seats. One of his principals is to hurt those that have slighted him. That and the thing I did read that in terms of foreign influence on this election Russia is team Trump and China is team Not Trump.
posted by Pembquist at 9:25 AM on August 8 [15 favorites]


Bizarre idea, but TikTok/Vine should've become public utilities, a long with Twitter and YouTube. There's too much universal demand for these types of things that just amount to "people communicating and sharing creations with one another." It does nobody any good for a business to control these things, all they'll do with that control is spy on us and try to milk us for profit.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:40 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I actually don't really give a shit about TikTok or WeChat, but I do give a shit about whether the President can just do this kind of thing out-of-hand.

...because, one, it's a terrible terrible precedent.

...and two, because it's awesome -- in a few months you can just instantly destroy whatever-Blackwater-calls-itself, Deutsche Bank, the gun companies, the oil companies, the palm oil companies, the Thai slave fishing fleets, DeBeers, and on and on and on, without any interference from the Republicans!
posted by aramaic at 9:41 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Ummm....so where are the legal challenges against this? Whats the official Dem position on this?
posted by asra at 9:48 AM on August 8


Skype wants my contacts, it wants to run at startup and be on all the time, it's occasionally intrusive

Like Elvis sang 'You were occasionally on my mind'.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 9:56 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


The two D leaders seem to be occupied with getting the coronavirus relief package passed.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:59 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


It looks like more details are emerging about the EO, and... I don't have a comment beyond "of course it was these Skeksi shitmoths".

WaPo: TikTok’s fate was shaped by a ‘knockdown, drag-out’ Oval Office brawl

"In front of Trump, trade adviser Peter Navarro and other aides late last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin began arguing that the Chinese-owned video-sharing service TikTok should be sold to a U.S. company. Mnuchin had talked several times to Microsoft’s senior leaders and was confident that he had rallied support within the administration for a sale to the tech giant on national security grounds.

Navarro pushed back, demanding an outright ban of TikTok, while accusing Mnuchin of being soft on China, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions freely. The treasury secretary appeared taken aback, they said.

The ensuing argument — which was described by one of the people as a “knockdown, drag-out” brawl — was preceded by months of backroom dealings among investors, lobbyists and executives."
posted by saysthis at 10:01 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, Bill Gates, in his recent Wired interview (mostly about Covid), is pretty perplexed about the Trump's actions with Tik-Tok:

So are you wary of Microsoft getting into that game [social media]?

I mean, this may sound self-serving, but I think that the game being more competitive is probably a good thing. But having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.

Do you understand what rule or regulation the president is invoking to demand that TikTok sell to an American company and then take a cut of the sales price?

I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange.
posted by eye of newt at 10:18 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


...but I do give a shit about whether the President can just do this kind of thing out-of-hand.

He can until someone successfully challenges it in court. And, it will probably have to be TikTok themselves who make that move. Congress sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about it, if they even have standing to challenge the move.

It will be pretty daunting to overcome the “national security” claim, though. The courts tend to be pretty deferential toward security matters.

The kickback is the real wtf part of the plan. I have every faith that, should such a deal actually transpire, the kickback will somehow find its way out of Treasury and into a certain incumbent president’s reelection coffer. ‘Cause that’s how this administration rolls.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:27 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


While state censorship and anti-competition measures can be hard to disentangle, it does seem like China's government is at least somewhat willing to allow US tech businesses to operate in their market as long as they don't provide uncensored information services.

There's a difference between "doing business" and "ownership in Chinese companies". The CCP essentially does not allow the latter. Which really kneecaps the ability to do business.
posted by schroedinger at 10:38 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I have not heard anyone print this so maybe I am wrong but I just assumed Trump had it in for Tik Tok because of the role it played in making his rally in Tulsa into a joke by having all "the kids" signing up for seats.

I assumed this as well, Pembquist.
posted by Rash at 10:48 AM on August 8


I think the first thing that really needs to be emphasized here is that this is a blatant move by Trump to coerce TikTok into selling its American subsidiary to an American company. He even tweeted that he should get "key money" from Microsoft for helping them in their quest to buy TikTok.

The actions taken by the US government with regards to TikTok are clearly, nakedly, a matter of grift and corruption and not rooted in any actual concern for anything but maximizing corruption

Politically my position is that if Trump is trying such a blatantly illegal, and likely unconstitutional given the free speech aspects, act as banning an app by imperial diktat then I'm on the other side.

That said... As far as data collection and so on goes, I'm having a difficult time wondering why I should give a shit about the PRC here? Assume for the moment the absolute worst motive and actions, that TikTok was a project of the Guoanbu, the Ministry of State Security, and that it is explicitly built to allow the Guoanbu to spy on Americans and gather information about us.

OK, and?

I'm not Chinese. The PRC has exactly zero ability to arrest me, charge me with crimes, or do anything else to me. In theory I suppose the Guoanbu could send some assassins to kill me, but I'm just a random schlub so the idea that they would is utterly laughable.

So why should I care one whit if TikTok is the worst case scenario and is an information gathering tool for the Guoanbu? "ZOMG, the People's Republic of China will know my taste in video shorts this is horrible!" is not a sentence I can ever see myself saying.

The only intelligence agencies I'm worried about are American intelligence agencies. When it was revealed that CISCO was helping the NSA install back doors on CISCO routers that worried me.

I'm a lot more worried about Google, or Microsoft, tracking me and knowing my TikTok info than I am about the Guoanbu doing the same. Because Google and MS have actual influence in my life while the PRC and Guoanbu are as close to entirely irrelevant to my actual personal life as it's possible to get.

I can certainly see how a US government official would have legitimate concerns with TikTok tracking them, or even a corporate official the PRC might be interested in for corporate espionage.

But 99% of American TikTok users are schlubs like me. If anything our info will drown out info the Guoanbu might actually want to have.

So on the one hand I have tremendous anti-American and unconstitutional overreach from a corrupt US President with no purpose but corruption and on the other hand I have vague nebulous claims that maybe, possibly, the Guoanbu might use TikTok to gather info on me.

I know what I'm more concerned about, and it ain't the Guoanbu.
posted by sotonohito at 10:50 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]



The only intelligence agencies I'm worried about are American intelligence agencies. When it was revealed that CISCO was helping the NSA install back doors on CISCO routers that worried me.


I feel exactly the same way (she types, from a Huawei phone that will not work if you cover the front-facing camera).

The only thing I do worry about is information leaked through the social graph about my friends who are Chinese or Taiwanese.
posted by subdee at 10:58 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Here's an article about Microsoft's links with the US security state in regards to this sale BTW:

https://newrepublic.com/article/158783/tiktok-americas-bleak-techno-nationalism
posted by subdee at 11:01 AM on August 8


Anybody happen to know the percentage of Chinese ownership of Microsoft?
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 11:03 AM on August 8


If you want a vision of the future, picture Otter and Boon thwacking golf balls at your oppressor while saying "they can't do that to our pledges, only we can do that to our pledges" forever
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:07 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


So why should I care one whit if TikTok is the worst case scenario and is an information gathering tool for the Guoanbu?

It might not affect you specifically, but I teach at a university. So if I were tiktoking, it would mean that the Guoanbu might be able to determine which PRC nationals were spending too much time with me, and which PRC nationals were in the background of my uploads doing something they shouldn't, and which PRC nationals didn't speak up when I badmouthed the PRC, etc.

Just because the CCP isn't going to put a bullet through your temple or any of your relatives' temples, that doesn't mean that they're not going to use information from you to whack people or ruin their lives.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:07 AM on August 8 [25 favorites]


Did Cisco help the NSA install back doors on Cisco routers? My understanding is that NSA did this all on their own. In fact, Cisco went out of their way to help some customers avoid NSA intercepting the routers being shipped to them.

If Cisco ever did actually help the NSA at some point, that would be different. My understanding though, (I work in the industry) is that telecom companies typically want to do everything possible to help out their paying customers, and that includes trying to keep the government from tampering with their equipment. The concern with Huawei is that they sometimes seem to act as an arm of the Chinese government and have been caught using their routers and other telecom equipment to spy many, many times.
posted by eye of newt at 11:11 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


TikTok to sue Trump administration over ban, as soon as Tuesday (NPR).
The source familiar with TikTok's internal discussions on the matter says the president's order appeared rushed and did not include carve-outs or exceptions for TikTok to maintain any legal representation, which the company plans to argue is a violation of due process rights.

Typically, if the federal government launches an investigation, it will inform the company with a subpoena or some other kind of notice demanding a response to allegations of misconduct or malfeasance. Federal investigators at times also call representatives of the company for a confidential meeting about a looming enforcement action.

According to those working on TikTok's legal team, no such outreach from the White House requesting evidence took place before Thursday's executive order, and TikTok lawyers view that as a short-cutting of standard procedure.
posted by biogeo at 11:12 AM on August 8


Horrifying whataboutism from Sarah Jeong

To me this seems like a classic example of the moralistic approach to international politics: Is the United States better, worse, or the same as China? Jeong isn't just giving the wrong answer, she's asking the wrong question.

The key divide in international politics isn't between good and evil. (Charles Burton Marshall: "Moral superiority is a wasting asset.") It's between those countries backing the international status quo, and those opposed to it. When the power of the countries opposed to the status quo outweighs the power of the countries supporting it - as in the leadup to World War II, when Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan outweighed Britain and France - you can expect trouble.

Soviet power reached its peak around the time of the US retreat from Vietnam, in the mid-1970s. At that time, China became a de facto ally of the US (see Odd Arne Westad's Restless Empire). This decision had benefits, of course, but overall, it was a major strategic mistake on the part of China's leadership: they misjudged the balance of power and joined forces with the stronger power against the weaker.

After 20 years of rapid economic growth in China, I think the key question is, just how ambitious is China? Does it seek to replace the United States as the world's leading power? Or are its goals more limited? For example, Nadege Rolland at the National Bureau for Asian Research:
... a close reading of ongoing internal discussions and debates suggests that China’s vision for a future system under its helm draws inspiration from traditional Chinese thought and past historical experiences. The collective intellectual effort reflects a yearning for partial hegemony, loosely exercised over large portions of the “global South”—a space that would be free from Western influence and purged of liberal ideals. The contours of this new system would not be traced along precise geographic or ideological lines but be defined by the degree of deference that those within China’s sphere of influence are willing to offer Beijing.
One obvious priority for China is catching up to the US in the high-tech realm. This is why there's so much tension over Huawei, for example.

The other interesting aspect of attempts to exploit the Internet for political purposes (what Jeong calls "information-nationalism") is that it's a promising area for asymmetric warfare. The US advantages in conventional warfare don't necessarily apply there, as the Russian interference in the 2016 election demonstrates. Figuring out how to respond is a major challenge for the US.
posted by russilwvong at 11:13 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


He even tweeted that he should get "key money" from Microsoft for helping them in their quest to buy TikTok.

Ironically, key money is illegal in New York.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:17 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


I'm not Chinese. The PRC has exactly zero ability to arrest me, charge me with crimes, or do anything else to me.

NPR: 5 Takeaways From China's Hong Kong National Security Law

The law applies to anyone, anywhere in the world

The law is expansively extraterritorial in its scope. According to Article 38, it can apply even to offenses committed "outside the region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the region."

That means an American penning an editorial for a U.S. newspaper that argues for, say, sanctions against China, could technically fall afoul of the law for "inciting hatred" against Beijing.

"It is asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction over every person on the planet," wrote Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University, noting that the national security law is even more broad in scope than China's own criminal law.

posted by snuffleupagus at 11:20 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


The law applies to anyone, anywhere in the world

That article reads like China just Monroe Doctrine-ed the entire planet.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 11:29 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Apple is allowed to operate in China because of a sleight of hand, involving the encryption keys of iMessage messages *in China* being held by a company based in ostensibly-but-not-quite democratic Hong Kong. This allows Apple to comply with local laws in China and reveal plaintext of messages to the Chinese government. Thankfully for Apple, their marketing campaign using the FBI as pawns was quite a success.

They don't deserve your trust, any more than any other corporation. Speaking of corporations not to trust, Facebook takes the same approach to data collection as Tik Tok, and they're not to be trusted either.

Unfortunately, given the current administration, I don't believe there's a thorough consideration of any aspects of the nuance to the situation involved. So just like the only reason we got any response to the COVID-19 is because of the stock market dropped, so, too, the only reason this is coming up is out of embarrassment from the failed Tulsa rally as mentioned by others. Turns out one of the candidates in 2016 was too emotional to lead. Unfortunately it's the one that landed in the Oval Office.
posted by fragmede at 11:35 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Whether it is "key money", or insider trading to benefit investors who support Trump, or he just doesn't like being made fun of by kids and women — or whatever the hell else we'll only find out about a few months later, once the dust settles — it is clear this is just the latest grift from a known grifter.

Whatever comes out of this, whatever form of government follows after Trump will need to set up a suite of laws, which do all they can to ensure that what Trump has been doing these long four years can never, ever happen again.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:47 AM on August 8


> This decision had benefits, of course, but overall, it was a major strategic mistake on the part of China's leadership: they misjudged the balance of power and joined forces with the stronger power against the weaker.

The shared land border and large standing army meant that the USSR was a bigger and more imminent threat to China than the US. No one was sure how the Cold war was going to turn out, so China played both giants against each other, while quietly growing stronger.
posted by fragmede at 11:50 AM on August 8


Just because the CCP isn't going to put a bullet through your temple

If you extrapolate it out using what Facebook does, they (CCP) at a minimum is keeping a shadow profile of every American and logging every IP address, WiFi SSID, device fingerprint, etc... for later data mining.

At the far end of paranoia, the app could have some backdoor to allow targeted exploits pushed directly to one specific device on a network. A hypothetical instance could be CEO of BigCorps teen is TikTok user, their device is on their home WiFi/LAN, a silent exploit is pushed to that device that runs a 0-day into CEOs laptop that’s VPN’d into BigCorp during COVID work from home.
posted by wcfields at 1:07 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


If the court rules that the President does have a right to do this, then I look forward to enjoying that precedent when President Ocasio-Cortez issues an executive order to dismantle Uline, Koch Industries, and Facebook, and force them into the hands of socialists.
posted by weed donkey at 1:13 PM on August 8 [8 favorites]


> saysthis: "Navarro pushed back, demanding an outright ban of TikTok, while accusing Mnuchin of being soft on China, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions freely. The treasury secretary appeared taken aback, they said."

Just in case people had forgotten: Navarro was suggested to join this admin by Jared Kushner because Jared saw that he wrote a book titled, Death By China.
posted by mhum at 1:31 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


That means an American penning an editorial for a U.S. newspaper that argues for, say, sanctions against China, could technically fall afoul of the law for "inciting hatred" against Beijing.

And that is why when I go next visit my family back home I sure as hell will be going through Singapore and not Hong Kong. Which is disappointing because I quite like Cathay and I'm kind of fond of HKIA.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 3:11 PM on August 8


One thing I do think is quite funny is that the US’s issue with TikTok/WeChat and the potential for data to be shared with the CCP is happening at pretty much the exact same time that the ECJ has struck down the EU-US Privacy Shield, on the grounds that EU citizens’ data is not sufficiently protected from US government snooping.
posted by Hartster at 4:27 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


This is embarrassingly unsophisticated of me, but I think it's worth putting out there: for me, Tik Tok is basically just a couple of minutes of pure, concentrated, fun per day. There are cat videos, dog videos, kids pulling stupid pranks, middle aged people trying out funny dances, in an infinite reel that's exactly as long as you'd like to consume. I'm sure my data is being taken and processed and used to shift my odds of buying Crest instead of Colgate by a couple of basis points, but the trade is worth it for me.

To a first order, this is what Trump's ban threatens to do: take a bit of concentrated joy away from millions of Americans, at a time when we're not exactly rolling in joy to begin with. And, on top of that, the ban on WeChat is a direct attack on the Chinese-American diaspora, cutting off their only means of contact with friends and family in China. It is, frankly, malicious, and I hope that doesn't get lost in the high-minded discourse about geopolitics.
posted by rishabguha at 10:29 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


I admit I’m baffled by the claims of “whataboutism” leveled at the article. it seemed clear to me that the point is China does awful things and that the US is gleefully using those awful things as political cover to do increasingly awful things that, while in the balance, are not nearly as bad but still utterly awful. if people are worried about the PRC having “ammo” against the US by talking about our ethical failings, let’s solve that by demanding the US not do the horrible shit?
posted by potch at 11:27 PM on August 8
[6 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

The only justification offered for targeting these two, and only these two, firms has to do with their potential for CCP surveillance and information warfare. Which might be legit! But to the degree it is legit, we are wide open to that from all kinds of bad actors so long as Apple and Google fail to police it.


I think these two quotes bear repeating next to each other. I've had a day to stew on it, and I think kliuless's quote hits the nail on the head - if we want to keep China from spying on us, we should force American companies to build in a way that makes spying by anyone as close to impossible as we can. Staying "ahead" of Chinese tech is not going to work. They already have the world's best and cheapest 5G, facial recognition, and drones, and soon they'll catch up to us in chip technology. This is a losing battle.

The way to win is, broadly, to make intrusive tech something we don't want, and build our technology to a non-intrusive standard. Bans on intrusive apps and services will only really work if we also offer a real alternative. We are currently not doing enough in that direction. Pushing hard for end-to-end encryption, banning police from using facial recognition tech, eliminating bias in AI algorithms, and forcing tech companies to open-source their software at reasonable speeds are more potent weapons than kludgy app bans in this fight.
posted by saysthis at 7:33 AM on August 9 [10 favorites]


she types, from a Huawei phone that will not work if you cover the front-facing camera

wait - what?
posted by trig at 12:05 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Probably thinks you've put it in your pocket
posted by mbo at 6:33 PM on August 9


she types, from a Huawei phone that will not work if you cover the front-facing camera

wait - what?
posted by trig at 4:05 AM on August 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


Probably thinks you've put it in your pocket
posted by mbo at 10:33 AM on August 10 [+] [!]


Agreed on the phone thinking it's pocketed. Mine does the same. The light sensor seems to be close to or in the little camera notch. You need juuuust the right shaped circular sticker for it to work (as I've had to explain to door staff at places near my house that are technically allowed to open but don't want to appear on social media).
posted by saysthis at 11:22 PM on August 9


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