Tik Tok and Awe

It’s a headline that could never really exist outside of 2020. President Trump signed an executive order banning Tik Tok in 45 days (or about 259200 Tik Toks). “Under the order, in 45 days, the US would bar anyone ‘subject to the jurisdiction of the United States’ from carrying out transactions with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese-owned parent company. A connected order also bans in the same timeframe transactions with WeChat, a Chinese social networking app, and Tencent, its parent company.” Do these Chinese apps represent a potential danger to US customers? Yeah. Do American social media companies present a more immediate threat? Maybe. Does the timing of this ban have anything to do with the election and the desire to position China as the root of all evils, including Covid-19 and America’s bottomless pit of failure? Sure. Is the move connected to a potential acquisition of Tik Tok by Microsoft. Yup. Is all of this tied to a much broader and increasingly chilly cold war between the U.S. and China? Hell yes. (Also today: Trump Administration Penalizes Chinese Officials for Hong Kong Crackdown.) Are we sure the ban is legal, and was it written in a way that was clear? Come on, is that one a serious question? Right now I wish my 11 year-old daughter would do a 15 second explainer Tik Tok on this whole thing for us, but it’s not noon yet, so she’s not awake. (I’ll let her mother tell her about the ban.)

+ Axios with a good overview: There’s little consensus on TikTok’s specific national security threat.

+ “TikTok might be pleasant, or joyful, or even subversive. But it is also an app on your phone, on the internet, connected to data centers and driving both corporate amalgamation and transnational entrenchment. It’s a bummer, but nothing is ever just an app anymore. Maybe Microsoft will save TikTok, or maybe not. Either way, there aren’t better and worse options here, so much as worse and even worse ones.” Ian Bogost in The Atlantic: For Whom the Tok Tiks.

+ The Verge: Trump’s WeChat ban could touch everything from Spotify to League of Legends. But it probably won’t. It’s just that the administration didn’t consider that before signing the order. Confused? Don’t worry. This issue will pass and be replaced by a new story soon. During 2020, every story gets its 15 seconds of fame.

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