Tiktok has been in Trump’s sights for a long time, claiming that the fact that it is a subsidiary of Chinese BateDance endangers users’ information that could fall prey to the country’s totalitarian authorities. Over the weekend he sharpened his remarks against the app. He first said on Friday that he was considering forcing BateDance to sell its operations in the US to an American company. The authority to do so through a presidential decree or the exercise of economic powers in an emergency.While it is not clear whether the authority was indeed given, it was enough to suspend the talks between Microsoft and BiteDance, which were reportedly in very advanced stages.
There are unreasonable reasons to boycott Tiktok, whether by personal choice or by a decision from above. The app itself, which is based on the creation and sharing of Lipsink videos, is harmless, or at least harmless as much as a social network that is especially popular with young users can be. Yes, it has its various problems, for example the ticking challenge that encouraged users to perform violent pranks on their friends but these are not unusual compared to other social networks, certainly do not justify a special attitude that sets it apart from the rest.
The problem is that Tiktuk is owned by a Chinese company. BateDance, like any other Chinese company, is subject to strict, not to mention draconian, rules of conduct on the part of the administration. And these project extensively on the app activity. Former employees have testified, for example, that the content policy in the app often reflects China’s censorship laws, and that they are required, among other things, to censor heated debates on political issues, alongside particularly erotic kisses. According to them, content reviewers in Beijing have the last word on video that has been reviewed, and they often ignore their requests not to block content.
Another issue is that the Chinese government can require any Chinese company, at any given moment, to pass on to it any type of information at its disposal. The concern surrounding this has led many organizations, including military and security bodies, to ban their people from using tiktok. BateDance itself is reportedly part of Beijing’s silence and repression system and has previously responded to authorities’ requests to censor content and block users, mostly from the persecuted Uighur minority, in a local version of Tiktok operated under the name Douyin.
These are good reasons for users to refrain from using the app, for organizations, especially those dealing with sensitive information, to ban their employees from using it, and for countries to consider banning ticketing activity in their territory (although this is a problematic ban, both in theory and in application). But the concern is that none of these things are at the root of Trump’s decision. And so it is with the connection between Tiktok and his economic war against China. Or, if these things are related, then they do not stand on their own and do not underlie the move.
Because Trump has a personal account to close with Tiktok. In June, users who organized the app, especially among K-Pop fans, inflicted a humiliating blow on Trump, of the scorching kind. Ahead of an election rally, the Trump campaign came out with announcements that a record attendance rally is expected, after receiving more than a million ticket requests (and put aside for a moment the twisted logic of holding a rally-laden election rally in the midst of an epidemic). It was expected to be fully occupied in the 19,000-seat stadium, and the campaign was even conducted with additional seating and huge screens outside the hall to allow for an extra presence.
In practice, only 6,200 people attended the event (excluding employees and journalists). What happened? Tiktok users organized a sophisticated protest in which they said they made hundreds of thousands of fake registrations for attendance cards – which led to inflating organizers’ expectations and possibly hurting the actual number of attendees at the rally (because supporters failed to get tickets, or chose not to attend the high density expected). The result was a particularly embarrassing moment, in which Trump, accustomed to speaking in front of crowded auditoriums, was forced to speak in front of a mostly empty stadium, and later to see the embarrassing pictures on various television broadcasts.
The Trump campaign has denied that ticketing users have been able to deceive them, but doubt with any sane person still believing the word that comes out of that person or the people around him orally. And for Trump, a new Nemesis was born in the form of an app known for silly but entertaining videos of teens. There may also be legitimate motives for Trump’s actions against Tiktok, but the fact that he devotes so much of his energy to attacking her, and especially the fact that he’s trying to block a deal to sell it to an American company – should remove most of Tiktok’s concerns about China. Every major technological platform) – indicate that the basis of the deeds is the personal revenge for the humiliating moment it provided him.
This is especially so in light of the fact that the US currently has much bigger problems than any teen app. The economy is plummeting, corona spread is accelerating in many areas (in 24 countries and territories the number of verified carriers is on the rise) and the number of deaths from the virus is already kissing But instead of fully engaging in these crises, which will pose a daunting challenge to even the smartest and most talented people (and Trump is neither this nor that), instead of devoting all his energy to dealing with the most difficult and complex ongoing crisis that humanity has known since World War II, Select
Trump engaged this weekend in an app for dancing teens because some users there made him feel vulnerable.