They’re not going to ban TikTok (but…) • TechCrunch


We’ve been hearing for years how TikTok stores data globally and delivers it to its parent company in China, and then to the powers that be. But despite renewed calls today from FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, it’s unlikely that the popular app will ever be banned entirely. But this does not mean that it will be allowed to continue with impunity.

Commissioner Carr’s opinion appeared in Interview with AxiosDuring which he stated that he did not believe that “anything other than the ban” would be enough to protect Americans’ data from being collected by Chinese companies and authorities. (To be clear, this is the one expressing his own position, not that of the FCC; I’ve asked two others at the agency for comment and haven’t received a response.)

This isn’t the first time Carr has voiced this idea. After BuzzFeed News Data errors reported Implicitly by leaked internal communications, is Written in June for Apple and Google He described the app as an “unacceptable risk to national security” and asked companies to remove it from their app stores. They didn’t, and now it’s back to the question of federal procedures – first thought of by the Trump administration, which despite numerous measures restricting China’s access in the US, has never been able to impose restrictions on TikTok.

The reason for this is very simple: it would be political self-sabotage. TikTok isn’t just a hugely popular app, it’s the life raft that a generation abandoned the noble ships of Facebook and Instagram, and soon Twitter clung on for years. The reason for this is that US companies are nowhere near repeating TikTok’s feat of algorithm addiction.

TikTok’s success in sticking Gen Z into their phones isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing – that’s a different discussion. However, if we take its place in the zeitgeist, it makes the ban politically risky for multiple reasons.

Or notIt would be massively unpopular. The vote of the indignant youth is of paramount importance at the moment, and any president, senator or representative who supports such a ban would treat him with a severe youthful side. Far from connecting with technology and the priorities of the younger generation, the capital will now also be seen as a fun police. Whether that will push voters to the other side or just cause them not to vote, there are no good outcomes. Ban TikTok Doesn’t believe the votes This is fatal even before you start thinking about how to do it. (Not to mention it kind of looks like the government is stepping in to give a boost to struggling US social media companies.)

secondlyThere is no clear path to the ban. The FCC cannot do this (there is no jurisdiction). Despite the supposed threat to national security, the Pentagon cannot do this (as it is). Federalism cannot force Apple and Google to do this (First Amendment). Congress will not (see above). The executive order won’t do that (too broad). No judge would do that (there is no reasonable case). All blocking paths are impractical for one reason or another.

thirdAny effective ban would be messy, long, and contested with no guarantee of success. Imagine that the government somehow forced Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their stores and remotely wipe or disable them on phones. Nobody likes this look – the companies look too weak and too strong, allowing the feds to push them all over the place and then show their strength to reach out and touch your device. An IP-based ban could easily be circumvented, but it would also set an unpleasant censorship precedent and, ironically, make the United States look more like China. And even if either or both were to be tried, they would be opposed in court not only by ByteDance but companies around the world who wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to them if they were hit and the government didn’t. t like it.

For these reasons and more, a complete ban by law, decision or judiciary is highly unlikely. But don’t worry: there are other tools in your toolbox.

If you can’t beat them, annoy them

Image credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

The government may not be able to kick TikTok out of the country, but that doesn’t mean they have to be nice about letting them stay. In fact, they’ll probably try their best to make it honest unpleasant.

The company and service are in something of a loophole, organizationally, like most social media companies. Adding Chinese ownership is both complex and opportunity.

It’s more complicated because the United States cannot directly influence ByteDance’s policies. On the other hand, as a “foreign adversary”, China’s dominance of private industry is a legitimate national security concern and policy can be framed around this. This includes many independent agencies that are free to make rules within their jurisdiction – the FCC, in this case, can’t make a case. But what about the Ministry of Commerce?? Home security? Federal Trade Commission? In this regard, what about states like California?

Rule-setting agencies have a free hand — such as tacit support from Congress — to extend their own fiefdoms to the fringes of TikTok, with national security serving as the overarching cause. If the trade adds “connected software applications” to the supply chain security rules as you have suggested, it can suddenly be said that incoming data and passing through the application are under its protection. (This will all appear in different definitions and files at the time of making the rules.)

What if TikTok source code, user data, and other critical resources undergo regular audits for compliance with cross-border data supply chain rules? Well, it’s a pain in the neck of ByteDance because it needs to scan its code base to make sure it doesn’t give too much. Having to prove that it handles data the way it says it does, to the satisfaction of US authorities who have been given freedom to be selective – is not fun at all. And that’s just a relatively quick rule change – imagine the FTC getting new authority to audit algorithm recommendations!

More importantly, it gives the US government a chain to loot in the event that ByteDance does not comply. It’s only one thing to say We believe this company is mishandling the data of US citizens and we will block it. It’s a completely different matter An investigation by auditors found that ByteDance misrepresented its data processing technologies and, if not fixed within 90 days, would break the law and be removed from app stores.

Neither Apple nor Google want to remove TikTok from their store, but again, that’s one thing We asked the feds And another says We must comply with the law, this is out of our hands.

If TikTok proves impervious to action by the highest levels of government, but that only means the job is passed on to a small army of bureaucrats who would love to be the ones who took over this very greased pig. This is not a rodeo, any company that wants to find itself a part of it – American, Chinese or otherwise.

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