Business Maverick

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US legislators step up push to ban TikTok this week

US legislators step up push to ban TikTok this week
The TikTok app is displayed in the App Store on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia, US, on Monday, 3 August 2020.

US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Mark Warner plans to introduce a bill this week to allow the US to systematically ban Chinese technology, including services like TikTok, he told Fox News on Sunday.

Calling it “a broad bipartisan bill” that will be co-sponsored by Republican John Thune of South Dakota, Warner said the law will give the US the power to ban or prohibit foreign technology where necessary. When asked if that would implicate ByteDance’s TikTok, he confirmed and elaborated on his reasoning.

“You have 100 million Americans on TikTok for 90 minutes every day,” the Democrat from Virginia said. “They are taking data from Americans, not keeping it safe. But what worries me more with TikTok is that this can be a propaganda tool.”

TikTok’s commercial success in the US has come at the expense of local social media giants like Meta Platforms and Alphabet’s YouTube, with both developing short-video services in response to the app’s popularity. ByteDance has sought to distance the service from its China roots, including by hosting user data in Singapore, though threats of a ban in the US have lingered for years. Former president Donald Trump was nearly able to force the sale of TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft and Oracle before his term expired.

Warner cautioned that China presents a threat to the US beyond that of the Soviet Union, and that early assumptions that integrating China into the global economy would make the country more liberal were off base. 

“I think for a long time, conventional wisdom was, the more you bring China into the world order, the more they’re going to change. And that assumption was just plain wrong,” he said.

The senator couched his position on TikTok and other Chinese tech in defensive terms, saying China is investing heavily in its economy and technology, and the US must similarly take action to stay ahead.

“China is investing in economic areas. They have $500-billion in intellectual property theft,” Warner said. “And we are in a competition not just on a national security basis, but on a technology basis.” BM/DM

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  • christo o says:

    I cannot help feeling sorry for the poor senator. His sponsors have been for decades getting data of people all of the world for free, which they have been ruthlessly and relentlessly monetizing. Now they are losing money because someone else somewhere else has been REALLY good at copying their business model. The pressure on him to earn his sponsorships from the various lobby groups must be immense. Note that he is not taking bribes or a getting a cut of profits, because that sort of stuff only happens in developing third world countries like South Africa, and besides, we keep record of who bribes who for what (sry, lobbies and contributes to … )

    What better excuse then to demonise China with claims of intellectual property theft (Oh my, the naughty people copied our idea) and use the fear of THEM to protect the margins of our companies (sry, I meant to say protect OUR PEOPLE).

    Am I worried that China will become a dominant cultural and economic force in Africa? Hell yes. Would I rather have the intolerant religious fanatics that are the Americans in charge of the continent? Hmm. Not so sure.

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