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Trump says he will ban TikTok through executive action (www.cnbc.com)
415 points by busymom0 5 days ago | hide | past | web | 651 comments | favorite

Not US citizen here. Can someone explain how in a democracy the chief executive can singlehandedly decide to ban a media only a few month before elections?

I can't make any sense of that, it seems wrong at so many levels...

The short answer is that he can't. The president has no power to ban TikTok. The president also has no control over how the app is distributed or its connectivity. He can say whatever he wants, and he can strongarm the agencies he has some control over (like the FCC), but there's simply no mechanism by which a ban can be enforced, legal or technical. Unless Google and Apple decide to voluntarily remove it from their app stores and forcibly remove existing downloads, it's not going away, and neither company is going to do that without a legal battle. There's no one who even has the authority to demand it, though.

I want you to be right, but I don't think you are.

He's likely to issue some kind of executive order forcing bytedance to divest tiktok to continue operations. We may see some DoJ or FCC enforcement action that's effectively a "ban" (for users) while only being legally a temporary disruption of service pending compliance (for lawmakers, judges, enforcement agencies, etc to be okay with it). As we have learned over the last 4 years, the president has near absolute control over all federal actions.

I think the safe bet is a bunch of saber rattling that ends with some US entity buying tiktok.

He is right actually, and has a great argument and I don't feel you are correct at all. It looks like TikTok USA is currently trying to shut him down by simply becoming a completely independent company that is USA based and doesn't share any data with China. That is the 3rd option.

However if the CIA has some evidence that the Chinese are gathering up information and feeding it straight to their cybertroll farms then he absolutely can shut it all down and arrest some people because then they are breaking the law and that falls under Federal police power.

> As we have learned over the last 4 years, the president has near absolute control over all federal actions.

Maybe this period in history is a hint to stop electing legislators that are happier letting someone else do all the hard work of deciding what the government should do.

Most likely it will be added to the OFAC sanction list at which point both Google and apple will delist the app within a few days. You can read up on how the SDN lists are basically the long arm of US law and can completely excise someone from modern society (even if they live outside the US). Banks will refuse to complete payments, merchants will refuse service, shipping companies will return packages, etc.

> The short answer is that he can't.

It depends upon what you mean by "can't."

If you mean legal authority to block a specific app, no.

If you mean use his authority to influence & effectively make it happen, he can.

In other words, it is very much a threat with teeth. It would just be a roundabout path for implementation.

Money and top secret guidelines could make this happen completely legally. I see TikTok as a strategic platform, including geopolitical. It is a wire into 100 million mostly young American minds.

> The president has no power to ban TikTok

This is the #1 mistake people have made over and over with Trump. “He can’t...”, “He won’t...”, “He wouldn’t...”, “He’ll never...”.

He doesn’t play by any rules. You have to assume anything and everything is on the table. If he really wants to ban TikTok he’ll either get it done or scorch the earth trying.

Do you really think once someone says, “Mr. Trump there’s no mechanism for you to legally ban TikTok” he’ll be like, “Oh yeah my bad, I better get back to work on helping America through this pandemic.”

He knows he can say whatever he wants and strongarm whoever he wants. That is his literal playbook!

>He doesn’t play by any rules. You have to assume anything and everything is on the table. If he really wants to ban TikTok he’ll either get it done or scorch the earth trying.

History suggests otherwise - more often than not he neither gets it done nor scorches the earth trying:

■ Trump wanted to change the date of the election, or suspend it entirely.

■ Trump wanted to send the military in to quell domestic riots.

■ Trump wanted to force states to reopen on his timetable.

■ Trump wanted to force American companies to manufacture domestically.

■ Trump wanted to repeal DACA.

■ Trump wanted to repeal Obamacare.

■ Trump wanted to ban Muslim immigration.

■ Trump wanted to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

The list of things Trump has tried to make happen, only to be sent whimpering back into the corner like a whipped dog, far outstrips his actual accomplishments.

You are right. Trump does not have the power to go into 100M phones, remove the apps, and disable the services that run them.

What Trump does have is the power of government, which will make it awfully easy for Apple and Google to do it for him.

I guess you never heard about what happened with Huawei?

It‘s a question of distribution power. If the power is granted to the executive branch, they can do it. It‘s part of decisions on their own country. I consider it much more questionable to exert power over allied countries to stop extraterritorial infrastructure projects (i.e. Nordstream 2), because the US wants to sell fracking gas to europe. I‘m sure that using such power will lead to losing it long-term and former allies for mutual profit will grow apart.

> It‘s a question of distribution power. If the power is granted to the executive branch, they can do it.

Any notably the power the executive branch holds, which the US classically prided themselves on being strictly limited in scope - as directly opposed to the monarchies the founding fathers resent, has exploded in power since 9/11 under Bush, then later even more so under Obama.

People had been critiquing the power grabs at the time for this exact reasons, knowing that they won't just be used to fight 'terrorism', which was always the pretext.

The fact almost every controversial thing Trump has done outside of congress has been using national security powers is not surprising. That authority was handed to them long ago and was always open to abuse.

The very broad national security laws in the US are the root source of the centralization of power. Simply changing who the president won't stop this train either. A lot of other country's presidents/prime ministers gained tons of power under the guise of counter-terrorism - including Canada and the UK.

“National security” itself is literally removing checks and balances in our democracy in order to be more dictatorship like. That’s it.

Think about the Hong Kong national security act. Think about the patriot act and all it’s powers.

> I consider it much more questionable to exert power over allied countries to stop extraterritorial infrastructure projects (i.e. Nordstream 2)

Nordstream 2 is a great example. Sanctioning a country that was literally the wall between you and the East is such an extremely stupid move. Just confirms Merkels sentence: "Europe can not rely on the US any longer".

German here and I have to, say: You lost me there, buddy. Even though I despise Putin and all what he stands for, I would now vote for polititians, who take a hard stance here, get the project done and take countermeasures or even sanctions against the US. Mind your own business! You have several catastrophes at home going on, maybe do something about that? We will buy our gas whereever we want to. Thanks for asking, we are doing fine here. So if you don't have a better deal for us kindly leave us alone.

Yet German politicians still want US troops to stay in Germany for "Russia Protection" - while never meeting their NATO promised GDP contribution of 2% in the last 5 years.

Putin is going to use NordStream to exert pressure on Germany. There’s no doubt about it. They use gas pipelines as a pressure point with Ukraine and Belarus all the time.

How would that even work, exerting pressure by merely providing another pipeline?

Look up Ukraine and Nordstream 2. Also you need to look up the purpose of the pipeline. It’s supposed to become the primary pipeline, not a simple small supplement.

Basically: grow dependence, extract concessions. The same way a crack dealer on a street corner does.

They are using it to exert pressure on Ukraine, not Germany. Germany is doing fine, thank you. The US should mind it's own business.

Putin depends much more on selling the gas than Germany on buying it. Russia also sold gas all through the cold war. They can‘t use it as a weapon, because it would destroy themselves. Germany is also building LNG terminals. And even if this were the case: it‘s none of the USAs business. They want to sell freedom molecules, nothing else.

Germany: underfunding its commitment to defense while undermining its national security by making itself completely dependent on Russia’s energy. Look how well that’s working out for Ukraine (starved of the energy that’s instead going to be routed through the Nordstream 2). And what about your former chancellor caught in the middle of selling out your sovereignty: Gerhard Schröder.

As for your last comment, the one insisting sanctions against the US: Merkel might have her foot on the throat of the rest of Europe, but we’re not going to see the day when Germany finally builds the empire of their dreams.

That's one onesided way to interpret the war in Ukraine. There are others. Even if it was the right one, the US is in no position to talk about illegitimate wars. The US has it's own shitshow going on in the Middle East (where it has no border and really no business being whatsoever), so maybe it should fix that first, before bothering Germany about where and with whom it wants to build pipes.

The US is no position to police other countries - especially not European ones, who are not even part of one - about illegitimate wars.

Regarding the empire I don't know what you are talking about. If the US sanctions Germany, Germany is economically perfectly capable of creating countermeasures. I say we should do so, because I cannot stand this arrogance. If the US starts trade wars with everyone, it hurts itself the most.

Note that a platform is being banned that's not tied to particular speech. I still think it's wrong for an individual to be able to do this

Platforms can be heavily tied to particular speech - e.g. Parler, Gab, etc. Banning a platform can hinder the groups that tend to use those platforms.

It seems kind of absurd to just ban one of the most popular apps in the world over night like this, especially with a US company about to buy it. On the other hand, I agree that China has had an unfair advantage in terms of banning US apps. But an overnight ban? This could have been played better.

The interesting question is: What's the end-game here? Europe seems to be heading in the same direction. We obviously want global social networks, and no country is happy with a winner-take-all where they're not the winner. So my (optimistic) guess is that we'll end up with federated (or otherwise distributed/decentralised) networks.

And heavliy tied speaker identity, and audience attention, that makes speech heard

Congress loves giving away power to the Executive Branch so they don't have to bear responsibility for unpopular decisions. It's likely that at some point Congress gave this power to the president though not necessarily this Congress and this president. Congress is free to take the power back if it votes to do so.

Given that even the Biden campaign has prohibited their workers from installing the TikTok app, there isn't likely to be much of a partisan fight over this issue.

But you have no safeguard against that?

I mean here in France when the government or the assembly trie to pass a law that is potentially unconstitutional there is an emergency review process by the "constitutional council" that can veto all or parts of the law that infringe.

This process just happened recently because our president tried to pass a "hate law" on social media that was deemed unconstitutional because it had too many unpredictable side effects on free speech principles.

While it seems quite absurd, most governments make this kinds of decisions.

For instance, France has used similar tactics when rumors of Pepsi buying Danone came to light.

> But you have no safeguard against that?

We do: the judicial branch.

Which is stacked by the party in power.

For example the Republican stalling of appointment until they where in power.

Thus surely showing it’s not stacked by the party in power?

Either through the National Emergency Act[1] or some other legally dubious authorization the White House counsel came up with after talking to John Yoo[2].

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Emergencies_Act

2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/20/trump-john-y...

Agreed, TBH the reporting on this has been awful, just parroting what Trump has said without challenging or explaining under what authorization he has to ban the app. I was hoping for more info in these comments but didn't really find it.

I know that the US does have the legal framework to deem the app a security threat based on its foreign ownership. Grindr, the gay hookup app, essentially had a forced sale from its Chinese owners [1].

However, if TikTok is sold to MS, and all user data is held in the US, I don't see any rationale that gives the government the power to ban the app, and MS certainly has the resources to challenge any attempted ban in the courts.

1. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/6/21168079/grindr-sold-chine...

He can try, it will never survive court unless he can prove the chinese really were up to something and then it falls into his purview of Chief Executive/Policeman. He almost certainly doesn't have that evidence or he would have already posted it to twitter. He is currently in a panic right now to create some fear/successes for the November election. He's appealing to his base and hoping to pull in a few people who hate "the reds".

Shows how far the balance of power has shifted in the last 20 years back when the Chinese government was banning western products to prevent "spiritual pollution" and "western influence". Now we got the reverse and it's also for ideological reasons (at least at face value).

Wonder if WeChat is next. That would be fairly effective in prevent overseas Chinese from communicating with the mainland and a lot of mom and pop businesses that operate through Wechat like the students who buy products for people back in China and advertise and transfer money using WeChat.

We'll be back to buying calling cards and dialing telephones, but I guess this is the era of decoupling one way or the other.

Maybe people will have to invent some kind of transformer software, like you plug a western chat app on one side and it passes messages through a third party relay to a chinese messaging app.

The point isn't to stop Chinese people from phoning home so a lot of that would be silly. Social media platforms that go mainstream are incredible propaganda and normalization tools, especially when their key demographic is a nation's youth. No one cares about WeChat because it's not nearly as influential in America and probably never will be.

Which isn't exactly reassuring or clarifying of any brightline, so of course this question continues to be in the air — unresolved. Will a stable framework of technological trade emerge between east and west besides "consult your legal oracles"?

It's worth noting the reason axing WeChat would be effective is that every other widely used communication app on this planet is already blocked by China.

every other popular app, you can still use apps which are flying under radar, which you must find by yourself unless you want to use illegal VPN

> Shows how far the balance of power has shifted in the last 20 years back when the Chinese government was banning western products to prevent "spiritual pollution" and "western influence".

Yes, now it's the US doing desperate acts of authoritarianism out of weakness.

Have you considered a Chinese App on 10's of millions of phones across the US and the security implications? I would think an adversary like China could very well take advantage of that.

I see this line of reasoning often, and frankly, I don’t understand it at all.

TikTok poses exactly the same risk as any other app on the App/Play stores. They go through exactly the same static code review and signing process - conducted by two American companies. Any security risk can be addressed at that point in the pipeline.

Assuming the concern is about “data security” (vs OS level security), I see literally zero difference between a state actor having access to my data, and a third party advertiser. If it’s insecure, it’s insecure - it doesn’t matter who the potential attacker is.

This is a horrible, horrible decision that has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with a horrible president desperately clawing for anything he can to get re-elected.

Right? That's what so unbelievable about this whole argument! Conceivably this is a tech forum where everyone posting should at least be familiar with that. Tiktok doesn't have any secret hacking rights to your system!

> TikTok poses exactly the same risk as any other app on the App/Play stores.

No, it does not. See the research here [1]. TikTok is a data collection engine disguised as a social media tool.

[1] https://penetrum.com/research

That was too ambiguous on my part - to clarify, I meant TikTok has exactly the same potential for risk.

TikTok isn’t doing anything that Facebook and Twitter are doing, or may do in future.

If there’s a technical security risk that we should be worried about, then I am equally worried about every single other non-Chinese company exploiting it.

If this were nation-agnostic, generic data protection laws, no one would bat an eyelid. Couching in terms of hand-wavy national security is just so implausible and blatantly self serving.

Good point. By the same reasoning, China should of course ban American apps.

Edit: As they have done. (So don't complain about unfair market access, as they clearly have good reasons. Right?)

China already did that a long time ago.

Don't they already?

> Maybe people will have to invent some kind of transformer software, like you plug a western chat app on one side and it passes messages through a third party relay to a chinese messaging app.

That's what XMPP and matrix is. Self host your own Chinese instance to communicate with people there.

I think overseas Chinese have bigger problems to worry about than Wechat getting banned. Based on the trajectory the world is heading in, we might be seeing Pacific War 2.0 and internment camps in a few decades.

Could be, but we will all be old men by then, and given our profession, probably have a sizable chunk of change in the bank. Those that are vulnerable will be able to vote with their feet and enjoy comfortable retirement in South American or something.

It's the next generation that will truly suffer, because they will belong to neither country and be looked at as potential fifth columns by both.

>we might be seeing Pacific War 2.0 in a few decades

An American-Chinese Pacific War is a projection of American insecurity.

In the long run, without its 19th and 20th century grievances, the Chinese do not care about America. Full stop.

One day the Chinese GDP per capita (currently 8,000 USD) will reach the Taiwanese GDP per capita (about 25,000 USD), the Chinese GDP will triple and nothing America does will ever be interesting to the Chinese again. Except for a Pacific War, which brings no benefit to the Chinese, outside of a few small satrapies.

If we Americans recognize the Chinese tendency is towards isolationism, a tendency with historic precedents, there will be no armed conflicts down the line.

After PRC invades Taiwan. Has a short victorious war vs India, occupies Senkakus. Makes Philippines into vassal state etc.

Any pacific war will be a coalition of India, Japan, US vs PRC war most likely. They really really should stop murdering Indian soldiers, testing Japanese air defense daily, ram everyone’s ship whenever they feel like etc. But they can not stop themselves, because regime is based on nationalistic aggression and “payback” (wtf they are paying India for I do not know)

Ah...calling cards, purchased a lot 15 years ago, and I had to use them ASAP, or their value depreciated quickly.

> or their value depreciated quickly.or thor their value depreciated quickly.eir value depreciated quickly.

Somewhat OT, but nothing has changed there. Phone plans minutes also become useless after a while.

No Westerners actually use Wechat.

TikTok is getting mainstream in US.

That is the difference

Anyone with relatives in china would. That includes westerners.

I use WeChat to keep in touch with Chinese friends. It takes up 1GB of space, which is more than any other app on my phone - wish could delete it but don't want to lose these contacts.

For what it’s worth, I’m a westerner and have used WeChat.... to order sketchy counterfeit stuff direct from China!

Look, this isn’t ideological. This is about Trump being butt hurt. I wish I could put a more nuanced spin on it, but that’s all to this story. TikTok has been a big platform for his critics and he is in a perpetual fight with China. That’s how we ended up here. WeChat is not on his radar and makes no difference to him. It won’t get banned. To be fair, I have a feeling TikTok will simply sue and win since this is blatantly unlawful, but I guess we will see.

What do you base your reasoning that this is just Trump being butthurt on? Because I have a strong suspicion that even though you don’t think the TikTok ban is ideological, your reasoning for that on the other hand is ideological.

The fact that Trump has done literally nothing but the things that benefit him personally his entire presidency? The fact that this is conveniently happening the week the US has posted record shatteringly low economic numbers and every time the stock market or the economy isn’t doing well he does something to distract the media and the public? The fact that we managed to elect a grifter? The fact that the man can’t read anything but his own name, let alone understand nuances of technology or foreign policy? You would have to be blind not to see through his intent. Or willfully supporting that racist as if in a death cult with him.

No banning TikTok isn’t ideological in this case: it’s one of dozens of Chinese apps. No other app is under fire. Yes I am ideological about Trump: I am against corruption and he is bar none the most corrupt president the US has ever had and hopefully will ever have.

Edit: just noticed your username. Dude, not cool.

In your first paragraph, you're supporting your baseless accusation with even more baseless accusations (all speaking in absolutes, and posited as facts! And some of them are so comical I'm not sure how you can seriously make such claims - it's funny you should mention cults, do you realize how you yourself sound?)

In your second paragraph, you're missing that no other Chinese app has 100 million American users. So yeah, no other app is under fire, but no other app matters nearly as much.

As to my username, for some reason I'm not surprised that it's too politically incorrect for you.

You keep using the word facts. It doesn’t seem like you know what it means.

As to your username, it’s not a PC issue. It’s just juvenile to the point where combined with your overall ignorance means there is no reason to take anything you say seriously. I hope some day you grow up.

This is a terrible development and precedent. Whatever you think of the CCP and the Chinese approach to censorship and tech, building our own 'Great Firewall' and banning foreign apps/services we don't like is not the answer. It just legitimises the Chinese approach and sends us further down the road to a fragmented rather than open internet.

I think it's reasonable to do for national security purposes, just like I think it's reasonable to disentangle U.S. industries from Chinese companies that pose national security threats and steal trade secrets.

So as a matter of principle, at least, I'm fine with it. I can't say I feel great about the wisdom of banning Tiktok in particular, but I won't let that confuse me into disagreeing with the underlying principle.

> I think it's reasonable to do for national security purposes

Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument? Not commenting on the validity of your position specifically, but your reasoning for it seems like it could be applied to just about anything regardless of how well it fits into the idea of a free and open democracy

> Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument?

Yes. We should be careful about it. That’s why I’m against secret courts. But this action us happening in the open, and ByteDance will have a chance to challenge it in court. (Something no American company could do in China.)

Just because something can be abused doesn’t mean it is always abusive.

>Haven't the most egregious erosions of civil liberties (Patriot Act for example) been implemented using the same argument?

Oh, definitely. I think those excesses which have been justified under the pretense of national security have been quite terrible, and I think that they are bad for reasons particular to those cases and arguments.

I don't take it to mean we should not have a concept of national security, or that we are so helpless that we can't meaningfully engage in case by case analysis of what to do in specific situations. It could be applied to anything if one isn't willing to distinguish between different cases based on their merits.

Also "national security purposes" is exactly what the Chinese government said when they banned Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Agree. I don't use or like tiktok but it's sad to see the internet walls setting in. Inevitable perhaps, but sad nonetheless

I don't think this will be a "Great Firewall".

The app will be banned from the stores, advanced users could still install the app by getting the APK.

not on ios. also, i'm afraid banning in the US here means actually banning it worldwide. or that will be the next step. it would be easy to force apple to just pull it from the app store. and no, people won't just install it from the apk. maybe 1% know how to do that, so it'll be a ghost town anyway

That is a risk of a walled garden like iOS.

There's always the web. Good luck banning a website.

In France they use lying DNS.

Most of the users have their default DNS set up: the ISP ones, and the french ISP dns' must comply to the law.

If you want to access SciHub for exemple, you need to change your DNS config to something else.

> change your DNS config to something else


You can still sideload on iOS with cydia impactor. It's a bigger hassle though, because you need to resign every 7 days.

It's reciprocity. China built a great firewall, and now countries are just merely putting their own locks to the gates to prevent the China from having free access to their own markets while refusing to provide the same.

If it's reciprocity, then perhaps the government should state so, lest people think the US is becoming China.

Unless there's a third path, there really is no choice but to act in kind.

The third path is to not ban anything.

I think that's what this is really about. Trump and the various neocons filling his cabinet have decided to try and do to TikTok what China has done to many US companies through its onerous censorship requirements and preferential treatment of domestic technology companies. This is a case of blatant tit-for-tat. What this boils down to is conservatives in the executive branch not wanting Chinese technology companies to be able to do business in the US. There is an argument that this is justified given the protectionism China has demonstrated towards its own tech sector. Ultimately though this escalation is probably bad for Chinese-US relations and the Internet as a whole.

It's possible for this to completely backfire though. Suppose Microsoft pays tens of billions to ByteDance to acquire TikTok's US operations and then the app tanks in popularity or fails to reach profitability. This seems especially possible given how new TikTok is and the faddish rise and fall of many other video-based platforms (Vine, HQTrivia, Pariscope, etc.)

Open internet is dead. It really sucks, I also had big dreams about it but it done for.

Twitter, FB, Alphabet excercise absolute control over censoring people they do not like(who are most likely wrong but that is not the point). Saw what happened with those docs video that Trump retweeted?

Open internet is long gone.

Sorry, you're conflating two entirely different things. An individual platform or service choosing to moderate content (which basically every website / app involving UGC does in one form or another) is in no way the same as censorship by the state.

Not even getting into the CCP ties, it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China, while Chinese ones have been able to compete Worldwide.

In a way this gives Chinese apps an immediate advantage (as some are indirectly calling out in this comment section). If you want to reach out to someone in China, you have to use a Chinese company's app. Since social media is mostly a winner take all (or at least has a major snowball affect), this helps the Chinese social media company's grow even bigger. Now you already have one social media app for contacting people in China installed, why not use that app for contacting others?

I agree it's unfair, but when you defend something for moral reasons or claim to have a moral high ground, you should stick with it even if it's unfair, right?

The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

This gets right to the heart of the paradox of tolerance. When your country is tolerant of other countries' companies operating locally, but they aren't tolerant of the same, then you're going to eventually be overrun. You cannot defeat the intolerant through blanket tolerance; consequences and retaliation are necessary. To make it even simpler, tit-for-tat is a good strategy for iterated prisoner's dilemma; always cooperate isn't.


I don't think this is what people are talking about when they mention the Paradox of Tolerance....

Hah! Why doesn't the US ban the Nazi party or the KKK if it really cares about the Paradox of tolerance?

I think parent’s point is that it doesn’t (but it should if it wants to survive)

Because neither are numerous enough so as to constitute a legitimate threat.

If we started seeing local governments having openly KKK or neo-Nazi majorities, the freedom of speech balance would substantially alter.

First amendment rights in the US are typically circumscribed only via a requirement to show actual, existential harm.

The problem is that historically this has been the case only when it was essentially too late.

Death by a thousand cuts:


We fought a war against the Nazis, with millions dead, to end fascism. We'd (hopefully) do it again if it were necessary.

It's really off the mark to criticize the US for not having done enough against Nazis! Forget banning, we invaded and killed those fuckers.

See also: Red Scare, 1950s, court cases related to.

> Why doesn't the US ban the Nazi party or the KKK if it really cares about the Paradox of tolerance?

Ideas versus actions and objects.

This is less so because they ban anything that isn't controlled by the authoritarian and antidemocratic regime. This ban is against something that's controlled by it.

Bans per se aren't antidemocratic, we already have plenty of banned stuff. The only thing that can be antidemocratic is their purpose.

> This is less so because they ban anything that isn't controlled by the authoritarian and antidemocratic regime.

Really? So why are there Apple stores in China?

It seems like a rationalization to always see ourselves as the "good guys" no matter what. Every empire ever did.

Playing devil's advocate, I can see the Chinese rationalizing their bans as defending their sovereignty against Western dominance since we have a long history of bullying China and other nations that don't toe the line.

My point being, there's rationalizations you can make from their side too, which doesn't make their behavior correct.

Just because you can find some kind of a rationale for banning TikTok doesn't mean it's not hypocritical, especially while we often like to claim to hold higher moral values.

> why are there Apple stores in China?

It's a known fact that Apple cooperates, apparently enough to be satisfactory for the CCP.

Short personal anecdote if you don't believe they vigilantly ban anything they don't like: My mom is Chinese and Buddhist. Her tiny Buddhist organization was recently told they would have to cease operations. All they were doing was meditating and praying together in livestreams. They also had online lessons with Buddhist monks and stuff like that. It's all harmless stuff, and their page had like 5K likes.

You would think something tiny like that might fly under the radar in a country with 1.3B people.

It doesn't.

> It seems like a rationalization to always see ourselves as the "good guys" no matter what. Every empire ever did.

I'm not saying we're always the good guys no matter what. There's enough to criticise in our society. But no matter how much room for improvement we have, you cannot seriously contend that it's even a question whether democracies like ours are superior compared to totalitarian regimes like that of China. That question was answered over and over throughout recent history, and shouldn't ever have been brought to the table in the first place.

> I can see the Chinese rationalizing their bans as defending their sovereignty against Western dominance

That's not a rationalization, that's literally just what they're doing. And we're also doing the same by banning TikTok. But that's not the point, defending your sovereignty isn't inherently bad. The point is that it's only bad if bad regimes do it.

Or maybe exposing the Chinese population to to a tiny bit of critical thinking or anything not in line with CCP’s propaganda is what is feared, not necessarily bullying, don’t you think?

I am talking about how they may rationalize it, not what the actual goal is.

Take the Iraq war. The goal was to further assert ourselves in the Middle East, settle old scores, signal to our official enemies we mean business and enrich a bunch of military contravtors.

But the rationalization that I think made it possible for a lot of these people to sleep at night was things like defending the country, empowering women, bringing in democracy etc.

These are different things.

Also, as an aside, I may be wrong on this, but I think people sometimes underestimate the foothold of the CCP in mainland China and assume a coup would happen a week after YouTube was let in.

I feel this is incredibly naive; I mean if you look at how in our democratic societies narratives are regularly constructed to strengthen the status quo, often by pretending that the 2 parties actually have major principled disagreements, while nothing fundamentally changes almost no matter who gets elected, to the point where there are studies showing that the majority of policies people in the U.S. are in favor of don't get enacted.

Hong Kong is a bit different, because people there don't necessarily see themselves as having that much in common with mainland Chinese, but I don't think CCP would actually collapse if YouTube and Twitter were to be let in.

I happen to think the bans have more to do with wanting to empower local companies, (which yes are more easily controllable too), so that there's a strong internal economy that would ultimately be able to withstand sanctions etc.

Come on. China’s communist regime killed tens of millions of its own people within living memory. It presently commits egregious human rights abuses against its Uighur Muslim population. It prohibits its citizens from accessing media which might possibly negatively portray The Party. Banning TikTok may be a bad idea and the US certainly has its own troubled history, but this executive order isn’t “hypocrisy” and it certainly doesn’t put the US in the same moral ballpark as China.

I do not agree with the CCP, but I also don't like it when people present non-nuanced arguments that feel a bit like U.S. ra-ra propaganda copypasta.

> China’s communist regime

China's regime is many things but cannot really be described as communist much anymore, this is erasing a whole lot of history post Mao.

> China’s communist regime killed tens of millions of its own people within living memory.

Absolutely. That has not stopped us from treating regimes like Saudi Arabia as friends. The U.S. foreign policy establishment is hardly concerned about human rights.

Of course these are horrible, but I don't believe for a second that the TikTok ban has anything to do with human rights.

> China’s communist regime

Fascist more than communist: it's military-heavy, nationalist, authoritarian and corporatist but with notionally private enterprise rather than simply overt government industries, all of which are typical of fascism (a few overlap with features of Leninst-style Communism, but neither nationalism nor, particularly, private-but-corporatist industry fit that model.)

It's not particularly aggressively expansionist, so it's not quite classic Fascism.

The US ostensibly isn’t banning TikTok to prevent its population from being exposed to foreign criticism, ideas, etc which might reflect badly on The Party. We know this because the US permits lots and lots of foreign media, applications, and websites while China restricts far, far more.

None of this is to say that I think the executive action is a good idea, but there is a middle ground between “a bad idea” and “literally the same as the CCP”.

I defend free trade/market not for moral reasons but for efficiency reasons. But when something as big as China violates it, the efficiency breaks, and there is no point in sticking to it for moral reasons.

What makes you think so?

The classic arguments for eg free trade suggest that even if the other countries decide to sink stones in their harbours, you still benefit from unilateral free trade.

(And that's also why free trade agreements are a bit silly from an economic point of view.)

An effective method of dealing with strangers/new people is mirroring. You give a smiley face on first meeting, then mirror their response: smiley or frowny face.

Also, countries aren't people and can't have friends. Countries have allies and opponents. This colors every interaction.

The world isn’t black and white. Just different shades of grey. Some darker than others. You will find inconsistencies everywhere.

The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

I’ve never heard of it described that way. I’ve heard it called “anticompetitive” or “protectionist”.

I mean, the US bans Kinder Surprise eggs, but I wouldn’t call that “authoritarian”.

> when you defend something for moral reasons or claim to have a moral high ground

It was never a reason of moral. There are all sorts of gates like that in many us industries which favor us compagnies

In principle I believe in unilateral free trade, but idealism must be tempered against pragmatism in the practical sense.

In the literal sense for a TikTok ban to be democratic it only has to be voted on. We can call it 'democratic' if a democratically elected politician can legally prohibit the app.

No freedom to the enemies of freedom.

China is openly show everyone that they'll censor and force state-backed monopolies in every area they have control over. There is nothing wrong regarding morals if means help to stop totalitarian system from spreading.

We're allowed to take a little more of the broader context into account - China is banning things because ideas might be spread that they don't like. People might spread fake news stories, like a genocide in Xianjiang.

The US will read all your messages; but you can say what you like in them. The ban isn't for authoritarian reasons; it is a fairly pure economic/geopolitical play. You can say whatever crazy stuff you like as far as the government is concerned.

Until you can't.

The modern form of power stemming from controlling a social media platform doesn't lie in completely blocking out inconvenient information (old-fashioned censoring) or spreading that one official truth (Volksempfänger-age propaganda), it's the power of subtly augmenting some groups of voices while giving others less exposure. It's mostly a destructive power because the most reliable way to use it is to blow up harmless disagreements into crippling internal conflicts - and all without anyone noticing that they are being played.

The present-day equivalent to the train that carried Lenin from Zürich to Petrograd would be a little tweak in a social feed visibility algorithm in some corporate codebase.

i don’t think there was any moral high ground there. it was just blind belief in “free trade” and globalism. but if only one side is engaging in free trade it’s just called being swindled

> The West has always said that the Chinese bans to Western social media and tech companies were authoritarian and antidemocratic. How is this less so?

Policy A: "Any social media platform that refuses to censor opinions the government doesn't like is banned"

Policy B: "Foreign social media platforms are only allowed to operate in our country if our own social media platforms are allowed to operate on the same terms in theirs"

Can you see why Policy A is antidemocratic but Policy B isn't?

One reason why is that Policy B is viewpoint-neutral – the ban has nothing directly to do with what viewpoints the social media platform allows or disallows, it is simply demanding regulatory reciprocity ("We won't ban yours if you don't ban ours"). Whereas, in Policy A, the ban is part of the government trying to control which opinions are allowed to be expressed, which is anti-democratic.

(I haven't heard a clear explanation from the Trump administration of what their reasons for banning TikTok are. It is possible those reasons include Policy B, it is possible those reasons are completely unrelated.)

I won't torture your POWs if you don't torture ours.

I won't nationalize your assets in my country if you don't nationalize my assets in your country.

I will ban your books if you ban mine.

"I will x if you will also x" makes you reactionary and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf.

"I will nuke you if you nuke us" is what's been keeping most of the planet at peace since 1945.

> and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf

Relinquishing control is a very effective negotiation tactic. If you can credibly lose agency in a given situation - precommit yourself to a course of action - this means the other party has all the control and all the responsibility. If, given your pre-committed response, one choice is bad for your opponent, they're essentially forced by you to take another one.

Thomas Schelling wrote a whole book ("The Strategy of Conflict") about such scenarios.

A toy example (I think it's even from the book): imagine we're both in cars, driving towards each other and playing chicken. Whoever veers off to avoid collision first loses. If you want to win for sure, all you have to do is to rip out your steering wheel and throw it out of the window - if I see that, my choices are suddenly reduced to "lose the game, or we both die".

A real example is automated retaliatory strike systems that both sides of the Cold War worked on - strenghtening deterrence by ensuring a retaliatory strike will happen even if humans in charge change their minds.

“‘I will x if you will also x’ makes you reactionary and gives agency to someone else to act on your behalf.”

This is true to an extent, but I find it unpersuasive. Because it’s basically my main negotiating and parenting technique. I don’t bluff well or frequently. I prefer to lay out the options ahead of time (because I’ve already thought them through) so I can let the other party make an informed decision.

“I will buy this widget for $X. Anything more than that and I will use your competitor / build it in-house.”

“If you clean your room, we’ll get ice cream. Otherwise, no video games today.”

“If you drop a nuclear bomb we will drop our nuclear bombs.”

The catch is that you have to mean it. Which is why I don’t see any real value in bluffing in long-term relationships. We’ve all seen those parents who tell their kids “If you don’t stop doing X right now then Y” and everyone knows (especially the kid) that there will be no follow through.

But predetermining your response doesn’t give away your agency. It’s simply stating in advance how you will respond to others agency in an effort to let them make an informed decision.

It is standard behaviour in international trade though. “If you ban our products from your country, we’ll ban your products from ours”.

Suppose hypothetically, that the EU banned imports of Australian wine, why would it be “reactionary” for Australia to respond in kind by banning imports of EU wine?

It would definitely be reactionary, I think the real question is why would that be a bad thing?

There is nothing positive coming from an aggressive situation anyway, but I’d wager the main issue is the reacting party is always getting hurt more than the other one.

EU would ban Aussie wine only if the benefits overweights straight reciprocation.

So Australia stating it will ban EU wines as a reaction just let’s the EU validate it’s worth it. If it’s not, no ban is set and nobody gets hurt. If it is, both bans are set but the EU comes out better if their calculations are right.

Just because it's reactionary doesn't mean its not effective.

Then China will always win a game of chicken and our words mean less than nothing.

Context is important. When someone keeps playing dirty and you find yourself losing to them because of that, sometimes it's important to show that you can play dirty too.

I agree that this has tones of adjusting your moves to match those of your adversary.

I just think that the losing side, when adopting similar moves, is not playing dirty per se. It's just leveling the field. You can only play foul if both players share, at least superficially, a similar moral framework.

That is actually fair enough.

The Chinese internet censorship isn't only censorship, it is also protectionism under disguise.

There is no reason to offer market access to the Chinese companies when China refuses to reciprocitate

You could always that American companies expansion abroad could be considered imperialism.

Let's just stop beating war drums.

Yes, no war drum needed, just be bilateral, they ban our shit, we ban there shit. They open their market, we open our market. Easy.

Just do unilateral free trade. Why would you restrict what your customers (ie citizens) can do, just because some despotic regime somewhere abuses their citizens?

Why would you restrict what your customers (ie citizens) can do, just because some despotic regime somewhere abuses their citizens?

One reason Chinese products are cheaper is that they largely ignore environmental concerns. So by allowing the trade all we do is put our own, well-regulated factories out of business, whilst increasing the net pollution in the world, and instead of quality products that last we get junk destined for landfill, thus perpetuating the cycle. So there are very, very good reasons to look at the big picture here.

And that's before you even get into the slave labour...

The problem is that if they had opened their market to foreign corporations, their own "shit" like you say, would never have been as great and strong (at least locally) as it is now.

If you open your market too early and don't protect your own elements, they will get crushed and you will be at the mercy of other powers.

Look at the UK, look at Germany, look at the EU... Having to please two superpowers and doing so bending backwards.

Is that the infant industry argument warmed up again?

When should China open their domestic markets to foreign competition?

This is a good point and it’s easy to get caught up in it. Because it makes perfect sense. One of the reasons the west has graduated toward freedom and a more free society is because it worked better in the long run. You can go back and look at how the government letting people do business rather than banning them lead to rises and falls of empires because rich families would simply relocate to the free countries rather than stay a place where the king might decide not to pay or perhaps even to seize their wealth. You see it to day as well to some extent, with rich Chinese and Russian oligarchs not in favour of the regime trying to move to the west.

Of course things have changed a lot since the East Indian Trading company, kings and what not. So maybe protectionism works better in a global market interconnected. Maybe the Chinese model is simply the future for us, but probably not.

Personally I hope for a more GDPR styles approach to social media in general. There is no doubt China is spying through TikTok, and that’s bad, but I don’t really want Facebook or Google to sell my information either.

One of the reasons the west has graduated toward freedom and a more free society is because it worked better in the long run

I notice your use of the past tense there; it did work well for the West but the situation in China is very different - they have been able to leapfrog to a Western level of technology without having a free and open society. So the rules are different now. The real test is now, starting at the same level, who can sustain it and who can pull away.

Did Tik Tok even explain why they were capturing and transmitting clipboard contents? (unfortunately not the only ones doing it) It's a little like inviting someone round for dinner and catching them routing through you things taking photos. They should probably be blocked and not invited around again.

I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned GDPR. Yes, it was a huge amount of hassle and a lot of work (inspiring many memes). However, it did make people realise how much of their data was being used.

GDPR's implementation was pretty poor. Like how every website is legally required to tell users they use cookies, which is pretty redundant as there are many ways to track users and cookies are just one of them. It made very little difference to likes of Google and Facebook, who know where you are, who your friends and colleagues are what you like, what you like to buy and even what you are thinking at times - now that scares me!

GDPR had a lot of potential but it has been lost in it's current form. Cookie warnings seem like something a politician would do, not something someone with any real understanding of data security. Very little has changed especially for the big players. Hell Google Chrome was recently caught collecting data when in incognito mode. A Google spokesman stated "Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device" - that doesn't make it ok to collect the information and send it to themselves. It's pretty deceptive and this is recently, long after GDPR was introduced.

PS: The comparison to the East India Company (EIC) is a good one. The CCP is very much like the EIC (ironically it was the EIC supplying the opium for the opium wars). They have their own military, have a huge amount of power politically, openingly admits to using underhand tactics and breaking laws to enforce monopolies, as they are virtually untouchable.

> it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China, while Chinese ones have been able to compete Worldwide.

It’s weird to point out this double standard but then apparently take the side of both countries banning foreign media companies.

Why give China access to our domestic market when they refuse to give us access theirs? What do you propose then?

The issue here is that it's a president arbitrarily destroying a company.

If the Congress (the actual body meant to crate laws) decides to create a reasoned, comprehensive law to level the playing field with Chinese companies, then they should do it.

What shouldn't happen is this kind of impulsive decision making that arguably abuses the emergency powers of the presidency to block an app that allows people to film themselves and post those recordings.

If you claim that this app is a national security threat then any app is.

> If you claim that this app is a national security threat then any app is.

How so? Not every app is 1. Owned and controlled by an adversarial state, 2. In the hands of every American youth, and 3. Providing opaquely generated/sorted content.

So explain how every app is an equivalent security threat.

Please explain why TikTok is "owned and controlled" by the Chinese government.

TikTok is just as much "owned and controlled" by an adversarial state as any app by US corporations is "owned and controlled" by the US government due to national security letters and the CLOUD Act.

The US used to claim a higher moral when others blocked, filtered, or enacted bans by executive fiat. It did so with some justification.

Banning an app because you are worried about external cultural influence on your youth ends any such claim.

because not giving someone access to your market is stupid, in particular if you're not a developing country because there's nothing to be gained from protectionism, other than enabling the increasingly authoritarian tnedencies of the American government against its own citizens.

Why does something need to be proposed at all, is the US threatened by zoomers doing funny dances on a smartphone app?

No, they’re threatened by two things:

1. Equipping the CCP with a sensor placed in the pockets of millions of American citizens. This is already a problem when American companies are doing it for ad targeting purposes. But to do the same and funnel the data to an increasingly militaristic near-peer adversary? It in fact makes it qualitatively, not just quantitatively, different.

2. Tiktok opaquely selects which content it shows users. Again, American social media companies do this to a lesser degree (non-chronological feeds), but they don’t tweak their algorithms at the direction of the government to opaquely modify the information environment a citizen exists in. Note that there is currently very public tension between the US establishment and these companies because yes, authoritarians love this capability and no, they don’t yet have it in the US. Tiktok has no ability to refuse CCP’s requests to, e.g. erase any references to their concentration camps or to amplify claims that Bill Gates is trying to inject microchips via the COVID vaccine.

Whether a US executive should be able to single handedly make such a decree, I really don’t know. It doesn’t seem right to me but I ought to think about it more. What is 100% obvious to anyone looking at TikTok and the CCP with clear eyes is that it is a huge threat.

There is no evidence at all that China puts the thumbs on the scale when it comes to content being served in the US, TikTok has kept US data out of China, and now is actually willing to open source key parts of its code base to auditors, which is a ridiculous double standard anyway given the disinformation campaigns on domestic platforms who are under no such obligations.

That aside, the US is a free country. Everyone can spread propaganda. I was under the impression that American citizens of voting age are able to discern information themselves and distinguish between hoax and reality.

Since when is it the task of the US government to police media companies?

Even for developing countries it's stupid. Perhaps even more so for them.

China gives Apple access to their market but the US bans AT&T from partnering with Huawei to sell consumer phones.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have been banned from operating in China. If you look at the big picture, Western companies have much less access to the Chinese domestic market than vice versa

Why restrict what American customers can do just because China restricts what Chinese customers can do?

Do you also suppose that it would be a good idea for you to hit your head repeatedly against a wall, if I start doing so?

> Do you also suppose that it would be a good idea for you to hit your head repeatedly against a wall, if I start doing so?

This is a bad analogy and proves nothing. There's no connection between two people banging their head against the wall.

However, there is a connection between one actor performing a bad action and then facing punitive action from another actor because of it. It makes them less likely to perform similar actions in the future, and could cause them to reverse the previous bad actions that are still in effect.

Whereas if you're banging your head against the wall, me doing the same does nothing to stop you. Hence why it's a meaningless analogy.

The bigger problem is that when American users use TikTok, the Chinese government gets a say in their social media exposure.

Nobody should be using TikTok voluntarily, in my opinion. There should be a PR-effort led by governments, parties or NGOs to tell people why they shouldn't use TikTok.

I don't know enough about TikTok to have an opinion on them in particular. But I do agree that it should be up to people to decide whether they want to use TikTok.

An information campaign like you suggest might be justified. Though given how politicized everything seems to be, I suspect it might backfire.

Btw, would you like to make it illegal for people to send their personal information directly via email to the CCP?

This shouldn't be about market access but rather about the power media companies wield.

The debates around Facebook, Twitter and so on regarding political speech and misinformation is bad enough, and those companies at least don't have malicious intents and are criticized mostly for their inaction. With a company operating under Chinese law this is a whole other can of worms.

There's nothing weird about "an eye for an eye" approach. The fact that chinese media and tech companies are allowed to operate unhindered in the USA is what's really weird. Unfortunately, banning it in the USA is a bit of a pointless act imho.

If you want to use those metaphors, it's the Chinese who are poking out their own eyes, ie who are restricting what their customers can have access to.

That's a great injustice to the Chinese people. But Americans poking their own eyes out in 'retaliation' makes neither Americans nor Chinese customers better off.

> neither Americans nor Chinese customers better off.

who said anything about making customers better off? it's done to hurt the other party's profit and expansion and influence.

Well, ostensibly politics is done in the name of making citizens better off. Customers are citizens.

Of course, if you get arbitrarily cynical, you are right. But then we'd need to have a very different discussion.

But this measure isn't bring contemplated from that motive, it appears, the whole narrative is about some perceived threats to national security, which most analysts think is over hyped and only 'theoritical'.

Just as China hides market intervention and protectionism behind ideological control; the US hides economic interventionism and protectionsim behind national security.

The defence budget of the US is in large part the gov's R&D budget and national economic programme. 'National Security' is now its headline for its international economic programme.

Well, in a fantasy world that may be the case.

In the real world this is little more than just another politically motivated maneuver that will do little to undo the damage caused to the world and Western interests vis a vis China of the US withdrawing from the TPP.

The motive is teens pranked Trump's Tulsa rally, using TikTok.

I cannot believe that with over 500 bewildered comments yours is the only one to make this obvious connection. I have a difficult time forming any other conclusion than yours. I agree that an executive order would be a direct response to TikTok users trolling him at Tulsa.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. These TikTok users already won round 1 (Tulsa) and this would mean war.

Reminds me of a Taleb article I read: Most Intolerant Wins


There are people with much more “intolerant” (restrictive) diets than halal and kosher, and yet, those don’t “win.” This is an extremely simplistic explanation with, I suspect, very little predictive power.

It seems you misunderstood the article. When a minority has an intolerant stance about which the majority has no preference towards, the minority wins. For example, the majority doesn't care if all food is kosher. But, the majority would care if all food was vegan.

This point is explicitly discussed in TFA. Kind of bad faith to criticize an article so harshly that you didn't even bother to skim...

They have not crossed the "threshold of winning". RTFA, please!

Right. So the point is really “the winners win.”

> This is an extremely simplistic explanation with, I suspect, very little predictive power.

A fitting note for every idea Taleb has ever had.

Is it? In his book, Black Swan, he mentions his hedge fund, which did quite well during the peak of Covid https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/taleb-adv...

Not quite sure that COVID counts as a Black Swan event, at least according to his own definition. From Wikipedia:

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.

2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).

3. The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event's massive role in historical affairs.

From your article:

Taleb, in a March 30 interview on Bloomberg Television, said a pandemic like the coronavirus outbreak was predictable and investors who weren’t hedged paid the price with steep losses. What’s impossible to predict is the timing of such an event, he said, which is why insurance must be in place at all times.

So essentially his "big idea" is the concept of insurance? That doesn't quite qualify as intellectually significant to me.

Jesus what a bad article, it starts out making a sane point with, maybe some slight anti-religious hints, but quickly turns into a personal rant about how all of modern science is in the pocket of GMO-pushing agricultural companies with a personal vendetta against him.

That sums everything I've read from him. He has genuinely good and unique ideas but over time he's spent more and more time trying to dunk on his enemies. I had actual difficulty making it through some of his more recent books.

The message that would trascend from such an action is that our vision of how a society should work was no better than the one in China. The West always believed their ideals and principles around "democracy" and "freedom" were superior to those of the CCP.

Now the West also needs to ban <X> (in this case, a social media platform) to function and is no better than its rival. If anything, this would prove the CCP was always right when it applied such measures in the past.

This sets a scary -albeit interesting- precedent.

> If anything, this would prove the CCP was always right when it applied such measures in the past.

It does no such thing. China was given market access under the precise promise of the Chinese would likewise open their own markets. They did not do that. Then they explicitly started banning American companies, conducting unfair trade practices, and more. All we're seeing now is a long await readjustment to reciprocity. Your logic is bizarre. If two parties were in a Mexican stand off, and both agreed to put down their guns only for one to not actually put them down, then the other party that put their gun down can pick it back up just fine. That other party IS better than it's rival because it acted in good faith, and it was it's rival who was deceitful.

Bigger than the reciprocity problem is that TikTok is operating under Chinese law and thus its American userbase's social media exposure, or a part thereof, is controlled by the CCP.

Not good idea.

> it's always struck me as unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China.

It is not about fairness it is just about power.

It always struck me how people in one nation can apply a single issue to defend his nation when there are many other issues that invalidate the argument about the fairness of his own nation actions.

It is unfair: unfair to the Chinese people whose access is censored.

Adding an extra wrong on top, doesn't make a right.

Be pretty funny if China says yes you should definitely ban it. We only allow Douyin in China. We would never allow Tik Tok. If you want we have some firewall technology we could sell you...

This "winner takes all" aspect of social networking seems like exactly the kind of thing that government regulation and/or clever technical design should be used to prevent, to ensure continued competition in the market.

If it stops Chinese corporations getting an advantage great. But it seems ublikely to happen while US companies have the advantage, and once they start to lose it, it will probably be too late.

I don't see a way for government regulation to restrict social media companies from gaining market dominance.

Even splitting doesn't help. You can try to split the main social network off from some other profit-generating activities, but they would probably start those up again, after some time. You can't split the social network, because then users of the smaller parts just join the bigger part again.

Currently we don't know how to do it, except encourage new companies to rise.

There are good arguments for banning or boycotting TikTok.

Lack of reciprocity is one of the weakest, I think.

Western social media that complies with Chinese laws (like LinkedIn) are allowed to operate in China.

> If you want to reach out to someone in China, you have to use a Chinese company's app

If you want to talk to someone in China, you have to use WeChat and have your entire conversation mined by the CCP. There’s no encryption and no alternative. The writing has been on the wall for years that the US will be left with no choice but to blacklist Chinese apps in the same manner.

As far as I understand it, WeChat is less useful as a means of disseminating misinformation or other social media manipulation, whereas the problem with TikTok is less about potential surveillance.

Thus it may make more sense to ban TikTok than WeChat. And always assume the CCP is listening to unencrypted communication. In fact, they are probably mining our comments in Hacker News.

That's not super relevant to this case, because TikTok itself is banned in China; Chinese users have to use Douyin, which runs the same platform but doesn't share content with TikTok.

> (...) because TikTok itself is banned in China; Chinese users have to use Douyin

Seems to me that it's not banned at all, they just release a region-specific version for a specific market.

It's banned in the relevant sense, that users of TikTok aren't getting any kind of network effect from the Chinese userbase.

Regionalizing a service is not the same as banning. It's not dependent on "the relevant sense", it's just plain outright wrong. By your measuring stick Netflix and Amazon Video and even YouTube would be banned because they split their service into separate markets, with some content not available somewhere else. At most you could argue censorship, but that's about it.

Heck, region-encoded DVDs weren't a form of ban, don't you agree?

Tiktok is the same exact service with region-specific restrictions, primarily motivated to comply with local jurisdictions. That's it.

Those bans have to do with IP rights. Regionalising of social media is effective censorship, since it's not that there are localized versions, it's that accessing outside versions and people, information and ideas in them is banned. If there was mere regionalising, they would be able to access the non localized version too, if they wished.

Then Netflix is banned in the relevant sense in my country since I cannot get the same experience an American does. Look, shit on tiktok all you want, hell I installed both tik-tok and wechat and I uninstalled them within 1 day when I noticed how Orwellian they were. I only ask to some westerners commenters to not be disingenuous, because Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and virtually any other big American company has given carte blanche to the NSA to get on their data. Also spare me the tired " this is whataboutism" argument.

According to this site, it’s actually banned in China: https://www.saporedicina.com/english/access-tiktok-china/

I’m guessing that the international tiktok hosts content that wouldn’t be allowed on China, and the CCP isn’t interested in having the workload of censoring the rest of the world’s content.

International users can still feed censorship classification systems, like with WeChat: https://citizenlab.ca/2020/05/we-chat-they-watch/

It is still owned by the same company.

>unfair that Western social media companies are banned in China

They're not.

Bing has been in China forever.

Western platforms could always compete in China if they assent to domestic censorship laws like every Chinese platform. That's "fair" considering how onerous and costly compliance is. Western platforms simply have not invested in the necessary mass human moderation until the last few years, after confronted with the same violence that forced Chinese platforms to lock down post 2009 minority riots. Hence why Facebook and Google was open to engineering Chinese compliant versions after improving their moderation infrastructure following failed revolutions, genocides, mass shootings.

The reality is TikTok operates in US under US laws like how Bing operates in China under Chinese laws. There's nothing inherently unfair. The issue is asymmetric vulnerability due to fundamentally different governance systems. US could never leverage even western platforms operating legally in China to undermine China due to Chinese content controls - see China deleting diplomatic tweets on Chinese social media. But China can potentially leverage TikTok operating legally to undermine US. But instead of transferring TikTok to US ownership, which is merely anticompetitive, Trump decides to ban via executive action which is... upright undemocratic. That said, it's totally justifiable on security basis. But just remember China-hawks in current admin have no problem becoming the thing they wish to fight. That's what Americans should fear.

Bing is a social media company?

It's effectively an information dissemination platform. The point is, any online service must comply to Chinese Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission. Facebook and Twitter were blocked - not banned, the distinction is important - when they failed to filter out requests for retaliatory killings after 2009 minority riots. This isn't controversial, you want to operate in a country, you comply to relevant laws and regulations. Unregulated tech is facing push back domestically and abroad now, the era of US tech exceptionalism is ending as countries seek silo-ed data and control over media in domestic spheres. China was prescient on this point. This is why TikTok has no problems bending backwards trying to appease US regulators, because it's use to doing so in China. That's the irony of it all, Chinese tech companies have no problem following regulations abroad, but US companies just can't seem to.

American Capitalists would much prefer to have China based ownership and control of American assets. Best of all possible worlds.

To the extent it’s “unfair” it benefits western countries.

They get the best of all worlds.

The Chinese are relegated to using whatever is available in their country whereas western citizens can use whatever is best in the world.

So yes, it’s extremely unfair on the Chinese people.

Its a good question, but there actually is a good reason: https://youtu.be/f2srfDwM2sQ?t=307

After reading many books on China I learned China values social stability over everything. In its 4,000 year history they have seen the dangers of social instability. We are a very young country and haven't seen what real chaos can look like.

(These ideas are from Henry Kissinger's on China, Destined for War by Graham T. Allison and The China Dream by Liu Mingfu)

I've never understood why people espouse China's "4000 year history". The government purged nearly all aspects of traditional Chinese society during the Cultural Revolution. If you want to be reminded of China's history, you travel to Taiwan. Even practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine tend to study overseas in Japan.

> purged nearly all aspects of traditional Chinese society

There has been multiple rounds of racial genocide in China's history, some by internal turmoil, and more by external invasion. Yet the Chinese culture survived.

It might sounds incredible, but so many people in such a huge land, have its own life strength.

If you think a political dictator can purge a nation's history tie, in 10 years, without actually killing all the people, then you are certainly underestimate Chinese people's strength and ernacity...

This is incredibly inaccurate.

You work in tech, right? Ever run this take by your Chinese coworkers? Ask them about their families' connection to Chinese tradition?

That "X thousand years of history" is a myth Chinese people believe about themselves doesn't make it true or a useful way of understanding anything.

It's... literally true, you can look up photos of turtle shells with characters etched into them on Wikipedia.

That doesn't mean they're perfect or blessed but they've definitely been there the whole time.

Dictatorships value stability above anything else. Because once you have absolute control, the only real danger to losing it is civil war. China has had tons of bloody wars just like the West.

And people have been living in Europe for thousands of years too. The "4000 year history" is a CCP thing they sell to the populace to make their dictatorship seem more legitimate. It's pretty stupid, most cultures have been around for at least 1000 years.

I'm sorry you feel offended by these ideas. I suggest you read any of the 3 books I referenced that explain this Chinese principal. The books are by Republican, Democratic and CCP authors.

Differences between civilizations can feel offensive.

Sounds like you're the one offended. Great 4000 year history of China is CCP party line. Reading neutral sources you'll find it's more nuanced than that.

There's some evidence remaining that China was once a collection of societies. Notably language. The CCP insists that all of China speaks Mandarin, but thats only the case since the cultural revolution.

Chinese writing is indeed nearly universal. But spoken language once had many dialects, and still does to an extent. These dialects are sometimes mutually unintelligible. If it wasn't for CCP party line they would be considered different languages, as part of Chinese language family. Much like many of the southern Asian languages are different languages that cluster together.

This is a typical orientalist take. Most of the world is well aware of "the dangers of social instability".

> This is a typical orientalist take.

Yes. As I mentioned these ideas are not mine but advanced by 3 books which explain the Chinese perspective. These books are bipartisan and multinational and explain this principal.

* Henry Kissinger's on China (Republican)

* Destined for War by Graham T. Allison (Democrat - Joe Biden recommended book)

* The China Dream by Liu Mingfu (Chinese PLA General)

You should look up what "orientalist" means before embracing the label. It is not a compliment.

Liu Mingfu is a Chinese PLA General residing in China.

Yeah, if you speak of a nation as an single individual, I've got news for you, you're doing it wrong.

That's rather ridiculous. The US has seen massive social instability over the past 400 years. The Revolution, the Civil War, slavery and the Slave Trade, the Great Depression, etc. And the founders of the US, being mostly European, were descended from people who lived through absolutely catastrophic social instability in Europe. Never-ending wars over religion and territory and on and on...

What "real chaos" has "China" (which is, by the way, nowhere homogenous) seen that we have not seen?

EDIT: I suppose the Great Leap Forward was an example of "real chaos", to an extent we haven't seen in the West. But where was China's 4,000 years of history to stop the deaths of millions of their own?

Do you really think that Europe and other parts of the world have not had wars?

Why do you think wars occur? Political fragmentation.

Ever heard of Pax Romana?

China has been able to maintain its civilization state and it has a continuous history.

>What "real chaos" has "China" (which is, by the way, nowhere homogenous) seen that we have not seen?

This is ill-informed and easily proven wrong.

I'm no China apologist, but the Chinese have suffered the worst human disasters in history.

Let's go down the list of top 10 anthropogenic disasters by geometric mean death toll and count the causalities in China [1]:

1. 2nd World War estimated 70 million dead, 17.5 million dead in China [2]

2. Three Kingdom War 38 million dead, all Chinese

3. Mongol Conquests 35 million dead and transition from Song to Yuan. Chinese population registers drop from 140 million to 70 million. [3]

4. European Colonization of the Americas 35 million dead, no Chinese dead

5. Taiping Rebellion 35 million dead, all Chinese

6 Red Eyebrows Rebellion 30 million dead, all Chinese

7. Muslim conquest of India 41 million dead, no Chinese

8. Ming Conquest of Yuan 30 million dead, all Chinese

9. Qing conquest of Ming 25 million dead, all Chinese

10. Second Sino-Japanese War 22 million dead, mostly Chinese

and as a bonus:

11. An Lushan Rebellion 21 million dead, all Chinese

Let's count the bodies.

Total dead in 11 conflicts: about 380 million dead

Chinese dead: about 200-220 million dead.

The Chinese are in a whole other ball park in terms of historical suffering. Nothing in American history compares to even a civil war most Americans have never heard of, like the An Lushan rebellion. For perspective, "only" 700,000 American soldiers died in the US Civil War and there were no accounts of civilian casualties of similar magnitude.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Total_...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_China

Uhh what about European or the Middle east or any other part of the world

What about them? GP is conveying the scale of just wars, this isn't including natural disasters that have ripped through China. What are some comparable things to happen in europe and the middle east?

>Uhh what about European or the Middle east or any other part of the world That was a list of top 10 anthropogenic disasters for the whole world. Europe and the Middle East's disasters are listed.

They also undeaded (if that's a word) 650 million humans since 1960. That's 88.4 billion lbs of weight added to earth, yielding a slight gravitational shift. I see that as a net positive for them!

Do you know who else has a 4,000 year history of instability, even greater instability? Europe. The height of centralized political stability in Europe was the Roman Empire, or maybe Napoleon. Yet you don't hear many Europeans saying "We need to bring back the Roman Empire", or "We need to bring back Napoleon". China values social stability because they have a dictatorship for whom social stability is a convenient idea to push. Ironically, the last serious bout of instability was the Cultural Revolution, which was a entirely a product of conflicts within the dictatorship.

Comparing the Roman Empire to Napoleon who lived fifty years and only invaded then briefly ruled neighboring European countries under heavy turmoil is quite a stretch.

Could this be the same as a tit for tat measure like with tariffs? China has banned a lot of US services and forced US corporations to pull content from their stores too [0] [1].

Genuinely asking and want to remain open-minded about this.


1: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.news18.com/amp/news/tech/ch...

It definitely mirrors the kinds of restrictions China puts on US companies with joint ventures, censorship of sensitive topics, and keeping data on Chinese servers.

However, I think why this feels unsettling even if it just mirrors what China's done is because up to now there was a sense that the US has a stronger economy, society, and culture than China, and these restrictions China put on US companies reflected their weakness and insecurity. But now the US is doing what China's done for decades. It shatters that aura of American superiority, implies that China's been right all along on matters of national security, and foreshadows a future where previously sacred assumptions of American democracy become obsoleted by new technology. I'm reminded of hand weavers smashing machine looms during the dawn of the industrial revolution.

Great point, the US should take the high road and allow the free flow of information regardless of the host of that info (friend or foe)

To give some push back:

Currently the US is in an election year and both the left and right are concerned about foreign interference.

Being said Tik Tok is a Chinese based company and following priority Chinese law. Couldn't they propogate direct election interference under the precived guise of being a US private corporation bc of US public's consumption and get away with it?

A counter point could be made for an actual US corporation doing the same thing, but a nation state doing it would be a different issue entirely.

Or maybe it just implies that the Golden Rule still exists?

The US seems to have been fine shrugging off the Golden Rule and giving China a pass for decades because it felt like it was the bigger man. Now, we're seeing the US admit that the gap has closed.

Maybe the gap is indeed closed

"An eye for an eye" is not the Golden Rule!

But in game theory at least, tit-for-tat is a pretty successful strategy.

It sort of is, if you think of it as "don't poke out other people's eyes if you don't want them to poke yours out".

The "do not do...what you would not wish done" variant is actually called the Silver Rule, no joke.

Just consider this: You have FB and other stuffs and can influence the world with it. They are very valuable propaganda channels and political tools and you can push whatever message on them to influence hundreds of millions of people.

Now someone else banned those channels so that you lose the edge. Not only that, the other guy also creates something similarly popular and wait -- it is not under your control!

What would you do?

This has the potential to backfire hard if other countries decided to use the same reasoning against FB to demand data, feed algo, management and employee localization in country.

> Could this be the same as a tit for tat measure like with tariffs?

It certainly hopes to provoke a cycle of retaliatory escalation, because it's an election year stunt looking to distract from, well, a whole lot of other things with a manufactured international crisis to create a rally-around-the-flag effect.

It will probably fail as a political strategy somewhat less spectacularly than “let’s avoid having a national strategy to control the COVID-19 pandemic and behind-the-scenes obstruct state efforts because the early impacts are in Democratic-governed states and we can leverage the impacts for political gains by blaming the governors.”

And what will be the retaliation? China has already banned just about every major US equivalent. It's mind numbing how many people are crying about trade reciprocity finally reaching China.

I’m torn. On one hand, we’ve seen how TikTok has been used by the CCP to extend the reach of its censorship, oppression, and surveillance. On the other hand, I’m not sure if the government should be deciding what software we’re allowed to have.

One option would be to pass a blanket law that doesn't just impact TikTok but US players too and then ban ALL offending apps.

This is only about hurting China and TikTok and NOT improving safety of US users.

If the US cared it would just change legislation to require rights be protected for social media companies - but that would impact Facebook so that's not going to happen.

cant help but think facebook might be behind this push to ban tiktok, given how they're already created a rip-off clone of the service perfectly coincidentally in time with when tiktok's supposed to be banned

I think this is a good measure to even the playing field. Thousands of companies are blocked in China. So why not do the same?

Because I (a citizen) might want to access the information provided by this service.

I (an individual) would be happy to see TikTok banned, along with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc, because I see them as vain wastes of time with a sinister twist. But I've also met teenagers, and even been one! So I can guess how they might respond to a government-imposed ban on a new and interesting vice.

And I (a citizen) am deeply suspicious of being told that I must not know something. It smells like corruption and tyranny. The belief that knowledge should be free is tattooed on my soul (and my skin).

Tit-for-tat only works in the absence of moral imperatives.

But it isn’t about you not knowing something, it’s about the Chinese government knowing things through TikTok.

Because we live in a relatively free country where the government doesn't choose what software we buy or use.

This is sort of similar to tarrifs no? The government selectively (through lobbyists and deals) picks which types of things are taxed (sometimes to unprofitability). Other things are banned entirely. Not saying Kinder Eggs would be missed as much as Tik Tok, but this is historically something the government does.

I think that you're still one level more abstract than what is happening here.

Tariffs are set for classes/types of goods/materials/etc... and Kinder Eggs were banned because they didn't comply to a regulation (small dangerous foreign objects contained in the product - maybe other similar products had to be banned as well but those ones didn't reach the headlines).

In this case the decision applies to a very specific company/product and that decision is not based on a rule/regulation/etc..., I think => on one hand it doesn't have any impact on other similar companies/products, on the other hand it scares me that a single person is able to enforce on-the-fly these kind of decisions.

Yes, it's similar to tariffs. Tariffs are a bad idea, and so is this ban.

How do you plan on taxing something that is free?

What's the problem with that?

Obviously, an ad volarem tax (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_valorem_tax) that is a tax that is proportional to the market value of a transaction like VAT wouldn't do anything.

But there are other kinds of taxes.

Eg fuel taxes in many countries are usually per litre, not per dollar of petrol. See eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_tax#Tax_rates

Carbon taxes proposals are also usually imagined to apply per kg of carbon emitted. Exactly because there's no prior price of carbon emissions.

When it comes to national security, similar to Huawei, this can all be done.

Such naivety on display here, I am alarmed for HN. National security isn't blanket grounds for doing anything. There are limits to president's and executives and even legislatures authority. Arbitrarily nothing can be done in our system. Unless US government probably demonstrates to the public that this measure is required, such a ban cannot be condoned.

They can do just anything, once they convinced you it's "because national security". And it seems that people are very easily convinced.

But should it?

Because if I wanted to live in China I would move there? It’s a social platform and I KNOW why other country’s try to control social networks but I wasn’t expecting us to stoop that low for control. They want to talk about fake news but limit us from speaking to each other with something they can’t control. A lot of protestors use it and it was directly used to troll trump by Americans , it’s a conflict of interest. It’s ok for Facebook to sell our data to another country or allow fake ads to manipulate the elderly with conspiracy theories but tiktok is where they draw the line? Redic.

I'd be 100% against it if this were any app besides one created in China. With all the spyware and protectionist policies there I don't mind so much the ban of Tiktok.

why not go live in china if that's the kind of freedom you want

I don't think it's being banned due to CCP censorship, it's more a fear the CCP may be using it to spy.

Right, but TikTok is being used for censorship.

Right, so the solution to fix censorship of some content on a platform... is to censor all content on the platform by banning it completely?

They decided what encryption software we were allowed to have for the longest time. Up until recently, it was illegal to carry a copy of Schneier's Applied Cryptography on an international flight.

Hopefully this will raise awareness on PWAs. Hopefully using PWAs on mobile will be normalized by the 18-24 year olds. TikTok's PWA seems intentionally gimped (you can't even search) but I will bet it will suddenly start working once it disappears from the Western app stores. Is there anything TikTok does that the Web Platform + WASM cannot do? (besides spying)

I'm not even sure POTUS can ban a site just by an executive order... unless I'm REALLY weak on US law...

but a PWA wouldn't stop this. Most of the mobile APIs aren't available on PWA and if the site is blocked via route it won't help

> I'm not even sure POTUS can ban a site just by an executive order... unless I'm REALLY weak on US law...

Being ignorant of the special area of law that is “Presidential emergency powers regarding trade with foreign nations” isn't necessarily being really weak on US law generally, though that narrow area of law ends up contravening a lot of what you might correctly understand elsewhere when it is triggered.

It's not clear exactly what the content of the order will be, without which we can't really begin to assess whether he has the power to issue it, but there are certainly, at a minimum, things he could due to obstruct their ability to fully interact with US markets under Presidential emergency powers. Given that Trump's I formal descriptions preceding executive actions have not been a particularly good guide to the details of the actions, I don't know that any deeper analysis wouldn't largely wasted.

If the state can order tech companies to blacklist apps, the state can order tech companies to add certain sites to their "malicious browsing" filters or order ISPs to IP-block arbitrary hosts. The state simply has no legal authority under which it may ban apps. If the big tech companies roll over for this and say "yes, sir", they'll do anything.

I'm a huge proponent of regulating big tech companies, but all regulation needs to done under the framework of public and universal rules established in advance, not randomly banning individual apps without proof of wrongdoing or a way to mount a defense.

> If the state can order tech companies to blacklist apps

The state absolutely can order parties not to participate in any way with trade prohibited under it's Constitutional power to regulate international trade.

Which includes Presidential directives issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The state already blacklists certain programs. Pretty much anything that illegally contains copyrighted content or some other form of illegal numbers.

No, the state doesn't blacklist programs. Code is speech. Bernstein v. Department of Justice established that [1] in the 1990s. Sure, if you have an app, and you distribute copyrighted material as part of that app, yes, you can be prosecuted under copyright law and be forced (via injunction) to stop distributing that app. But the word "law" is essential: there is a specific rule, set out in advance, which applies to everyone, and for which there are clear penalties. I have seen nobody explain what law TikTok is supposedly breaking.

If TikTok is doing something bad, fine. Make a rule against the bad thing, then ban TikTok on the basis of breaking that rule. You can't just bypass the whole "make a rule" and "show that $X broke the rule" thing and go straight to "punish X". That's called passing a "bill of attainder", and it's such a terrible idea that the practice is specifically banned in the constitution. Now, maybe this situation isn't technically a bill of attainder, but it's the same damned principle at work, and it's still a bad idea.

[1] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/04/remembering-case-estab...

> You can't just bypass the whole "make a rule" and "show that $X broke the rule" thing and go straight to "punish X".

Yes, as long as the punishment isn't essentially criminal in nature, you can, and it's long been a regularly used tool of foreign policy, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. When sanctions are declared against foreign companies or individuals or trade with them otherwise restricted, it's based on declared threats to the country, not general rules that are announced in advance and then the specific individuals involved found guilty in some judicial process of breaking after the rule was declared. It's all by executive finding.

That this particular banning may be legal (and I think that's arguable) doesn't make it good policy (which I strongly believe it is not), because the reasoning behind nulla poena sine lega applies here too. The whole reason we have rules and not a chaos of capriciousness is to make it possible to plan, predict, and invest. A state that arbitrarily punishes international parties for unclear reasons will decrease confidence in all foreign interactions.

And SCOTUS has shown no issue with rebuking Trump for shortcutting the APA.

Any action here would almost certainly be under the IEEPA, to which APA rulemaking process does not apply.

> Hopefully this will raise awareness on PWAs

He's not talking about banning the TikTok app narrowly, but banning TikTok from operating in the USA (which, assuming he's acting under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, could also including either preventing or directing and compelling sale, transfer, etc., of any of their property — or any property in which any foreign person holds an interest.)

What’s to stop the US from blacklisting the PWA too?

The technical barrier. Maybe I'm ignorant, but I think Chrome & Firefox would put up a much bigger fight than App/Play Store. The latter is already a walled garden.

The US doesnt seem to have a problem taking down websites its found to be illegal, I don't know why a PWA would be much different. They dont need any buy-in from browser developers.

Pretty sure they do this by taking over the domain... Not sure if that would work in this case...

I don’t think this will just be the app itself. It will be network traffic based.

I don’t think there is infrastructure in place in the US to prevent access to an IP space.

You just ask ISPs to not resolve the domain names. That would make it inaccessible to the vast majority of people, which is more than enough to kill a social network.

I would hope ISPs would refuse to cooperate. Ban it at the store level.

Perhaps Huawei might be willing to provide it.

Shouldn’t this be a very basic thing to do network wise?

For an individual ISP, yeah. But there are thousands across the US and what I think doesn’t exist is a central list they all look at for IPs to block.

No, it will most likely be restriction on business operations based.

Which platform? Apple (probably intentionally) doesn’t support many (any?) of the core features of PWAs on iOS.

We are on HN here, right? Does anybody was able to do a man in the middle inspection to prove that the app is spying on Users?

Does anybody did inspect the binary and found a back door in the app?

In am working in video and I find that the tool they did develop allowing kids to remix video succeeded were previous startup failed...

There is ongoing research by different companies/people. For example, check out penetrum: https://penetrum.com/research

Got it from this reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/fxgi06/not_new_news...

It'd be awesome if the reverse engineered code was on Github or something. I found this repo but wasn't able to look deep into it yet, so take with a grain of salt: https://github.com/augustgl/tiktok_source


penetrum has this nice white paper:


This is their conclusion:

"After extensive research, we have found that not only is TikTok a massive security flaw waiting to happen, but the ties that they have to Chinese parties and Chinese ISP’s make it a very vulnerable source of data that still has more to be investigated. Data harvesting, tracking, fingerprinting, and user information occurs throughout the entire application. As a US company, we feel that it is our responsibility to raise awareness of this extensive data harvesting to TikTok’s 1 billion users."

There is bad coding in the app but is that enough for the ban?

They also seems to get telemetry data, who does not :-)

That white paper is scare-mongering garbage, and I don't say that lightly. Some of the horrible things TikTok is supposedly doing:

* Using Java reflection (which almost everyone does)

* Webview (many of your apps are just thin webview wrappers)

* Log device information (uh, logging things like the OS version for diagnostics and metrics is perfectly normal)

The paper uses the word "monitoring" appearing in a debug message as evidence that the app is built to spy on users. Here's the log message that they want to claim proves TikTok evil-doing:

    AFlogger.afInfoLog("Turning on monitoring")
Uh, the word "monitoring" has plenty of perfectly innocuous uses, e.g., monitoring memory use. If this thing really were trying to monitor user behavior in some sneaky way for the CCP, why the hell would they log about it, in English?

In another section of scare-longering, these "researchers" try to cast asperations on the app calling the Java equivalent of system(3) to run a subprocess. Uh, so what? That's also a fairly common thing to do on Android --- people use it to, e.g., run logcat for diagnostics (logcat filters the logs to only ones from the running UID, so there's no privacy leak).

In yet another section of scare-mongering, the document suggests that TikTok's use of MD5 is some kind of deliberate back-door. No, it's probably just like every other use of MD5 these days: some junior developer who hasn't kept up on the recent MD5 attacks.

Yes, TikTok ignores TLS errors. That's just shitty programming. But like the MD5 thing, I'm going to chalk it up to just shitty coding, not some kind of deliberate spyware backdoor. This code would certainly not pass my code review. But I see no evidence of malice. These are errors that junior developers make everywhere.

There's also a SQL injection. The researchers haven't shown that the inputs to the SQL query are unsanitized, and even so, injecting SQL from a UI text book to the local SQLite database is no big deal. The user owns the device! It's certainly not evidence of some kind of nefarious backdoor.

On top of all of that, the app is sandboxed, like every other Android app. Even if there were some ultra-mega remote code execution facility wired directly to Xi Jinping's desk, there'd be minimal risk, because the app couldn't look at the rest of the system! This whole analysis is aggressively, painfully, and conspicuously stupid. All this article tells me is 1) TikTok's software engineering team is too junior, and 2) people really, really, really want to believe that the app is evil.

This execrable article is one of the worst security reviews that I have ever read, and I've read a lot of them. It makes me yearn for the days of Colin Powell bullshitting the UN about Iraqi yellowcake. At least Powell didn't make 6th grade writing and logic errors.

This is "so if she weighs the same as a duck...she must be a witch!" level of analysis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5iMhHCGuOI

Yes, it is stupid that in 2020 we accept articles against an app without hardcore claims. It is also no sense if these analysis are only targeting Chinese companies and not other top apps like FB.

This will be a huge gift horse to Zuckerberg/Facebook and I have a sneaking suspicion it's a project of Peter Thiel. There are a lot of remedies that could be taken if we suspect TikTok of malfeasance, but a straight up ban? I smell fish.

"Peter Thiel sells most of remaining Facebook stake (2017)"


He’s still on the board and is a friend of Zuck.

If it is a project of Peter Thiel, I would hope that would finally wake everyone up to how bad faith calling himself a libertarian is.

Just consider the HUGE conflict of interest if an Facebook board member, and Trump inner circle confidant, had any input into this process.

where is the conflict? facebook is an america company so the president would be acting in the interest of an american company

The conflict is the presidents advisor sitting on the board of the company most likely to benefit from the ban.

I disagree. This would prove why big government is dangerous. This is the perfect example of how powerful individuals can leverage governmental power to enrich themselves. He's like Trump, pointing out all these problems while exploiting them to the max.

So you're letting him off the hook for hypocrisy? There's lots of other libertarians and non-libertarians playing by the rules and not benefitting from crony capitalism. Are you excusing Thiel for being a total hypocrite (e.g. making his money from government contracts) all the while telling everyone else to be a rugged individualist?

Are we supposed to admire looting the government as a kind of 5 dimensional chess, where the profiteers weren't actually grifters, but merely trying to make a philosophical point?

You know in security research, there are white hats, who find the exploits, notify about them, and are rewarded with recognition and sometimes bounties.

And there are black hats who use the exploits to pillage. These people don't get credit for 'raising awareness'

And in my view, Palantir is not a white hat libertarian exercise demonstrating how crony capitalism is bad and how we need smaller government.

Ban Facebook and Google too? Their data collection is so much more powerful. Never seen TikTok scripts anywhere while most apps and sites send your personal data to FB and Google. Pretty much every American is tracked by Google and FB no matter whether they have an account or whether they install their app.

Like the other commenter I'm not so sure it's obvious that domestic data collection is 'so much more powerful' - presumably you can learn remarkably specific things about people via tiktok.

And GoogleBook aren't using data collection in service of major world power that is, in many senses, an antagonist to the western world, and we have avenues for oversight/reform available to us that we don't necessarily have with tiktok. That's not to say I think we should ban tiktok, but that contemplation of a ban doesn't bring with it the implication that GoogleBook would need the same treatment.

> and we have avenues for oversight/reform available to us that we don't necessarily have with tiktok

Avenues that seem to be working oh-so-well, with the NSA continuing to operate PRISM and hand out NSLs and gag orders?

Yup. Low-effort expressions of incredulity such as this one are a dime a dozen on the internet, and barely worth their weight in bits. We really do have the ability to haul them before congress, impose fines, bring forward anti-trust cases.

It surely is imperfect, but as I said we have tools we can bring to bear, and it's in a context of a working relationship with the US rather than foreign adversaries which is what distinguish those cases from TikTok. If you read that and all you heard was 'Big Tech is Perfect' then I'm just wasting my time here.

Without a credible source to back up your assertion that "their data collection is so much more powerful", this is a pretty empty statement.

I also believe that we need to have a healthy concern for Chinese friendly agents/resources acting in concert, even on (or maybe especially on) technical sites like HN.

There's a very credible source from 7 years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(surveillance_program)

But "their" isn't Google or Facebook but the surveillance agencies that are directly plugged in. Much like of what TikTok is accused of doing.

There’s ongoing joke about USA becoming large Turkey because all the stuff that we used to say that would never happen in a proper democracy is happening one by one.

I know you don’t want to hear it, I know you think that you are exceptional and you are not like the others who ban apps and websıtes but I am going to say it anyway as a record for the future.

When Turkey banned YouTube or Twitter of course it was banned to “protect the rights of the citizens”.

Theses things always happen for noble reasons.

Welcome to the world where the government decides what app or service you can use.

I am sure that it’s necessary to keep you safe from these evil foreigners. Could have regulated user data safety but ban is the way to go.

The only downside is, we can no longer argue that in a proper democracies governments don’t ban stuff. USA was the example used to demand rights when people were protesting against totalitarian governments and it’s gone. Now the governments would ban Twitter Facebook and everything else when they feel like doing so and will say that it is for national security reason, look even the USA is doing it!

BTW, Turkey is preparing to ban Twitter again. Of course it is to preserve the rights of its citizens, it always is. China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Turkey - the usual suspects that ban access, they also ban for the greater good. It is always for national security or to preserver the rights of its citizens.

Well the US banned Kinder Eggs. I don't necessarily like it but the US has a history of protectionist trade laws.

I'm curious what they know about TikTok that isn't public. This seems too drastic for just trade posturing.

Is it really? Have you followed any of this administration’s drama these last 3.5 years?

In all seriousness, TikTok's Gen-Z userbase played a big role in a huge embarrassment for Trump recently, and given that there seems no end to his personal vanity and vindictiveness, I would not be surprised if this decision was rooted at least in part in vengeance against its users.

See: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/style/tiktok-trump-rally-...

How is there only one comment that states what is clearly going on here?

Why would any candidate seek "vengeance" in an election year toward a cohort who will be voting for the first time (in many cases) in 2020 and who seem overall more conservative than the previous generation? It seems way more likely to me that the jester is cover for or distraction from something much more serious, and I'd rather talk about that than feed the jester's personal vanity by interpreting every major world event through orange-colored glasses :)

Trump is not the most reasonable person. If you offend him he will burn you. This is what is happening with TikTok.

Dems are in a rough spot on this one, it will be hard to attack an action against an app with documented CCP/PLA involvement when they went so hard against FB for their inaction on use of the platform by foreign powers.

Why would they want to defend it? Addictive social media app based in China being forced to go is beneficial for everyone. It's even better if you're not the one removing rights so the blame goes to your political opponent.

Explanation of the current legal structure that can be used to ban/force divestment of TikTok:


In short, a president has substantial powers (granted by Congress via IEEPA and CFIUS) to institute a ban or force a divestment of any company "engaged in interstate commerce in the United States", if "national emergency" or "national security" is involved. So, legally, it seems that president can ban TikTok, under certain conditions (that may not be so difficult to achieve). The link above only explains the current legal framework, not whether banning the TikTok is in itself a good or a bad thing. IANAL, so I can't judge the competence of the presented arguments, but it is written by a respected law professor.

Now people in the US will have to use a VPN to access a Chinese app. Oh how the turntables.

The US is acting like a desperate country that has no idea what it is doing. It is evident to the whole world that the US doesn't want to compete at the level of high technology, which is what the Chinese have achieved in the last couple of years. Whenever a country tries to create a fence around it, then it is just displaying weakness. It would be much more constructive for the US to recognize that they're getting behind in the technology game and compete as adults.

> The US is acting like a desperate country that has no idea what it is doing

The US Administration is acting like a desperate regime that knows exactly what it is doing trying to generate a foreign crisis to distract from domestic political problems to generate a rally-around-the-flag effect.

I agree with that. In fact it seems like Trump is trying very hard to start a new war before the election.

Remember Iran earlier this year, a very similar situation.

It is evident to the whole world that the US doesn't want to compete at the level of high technology, which is what the Chinese have achieved in the last couple of years

Not sure where this is coming from. TikTok is being banned out of national security interests, not because it is an advanced level of technology that the US thinks it can't compete with.

> TikTok is being banned out of national security interests

I think you meant to say “a thinly-veiled guise of national security interests.”

TikTok is being banned because it’s election season and Trump doesn’t want a repeat of Tulsa.

And yet, the US is not the first country to ban TikTok for national security reasons, if I'm remembering India's recent actions correctly.

I don't think this is about competition. It's about a belligerent foreign government posing a threat to national security.

Now you could argue that's a classic Dubya style ad hoc excuse designed to mask the government's true intentions with this, but I really don't think so. China's behavior is a legitimate threat for which shrugging and saying "let the free market handle it" seems an incredibly dangerous stance to take in my opinion.

China can harm the US with trade regulations much, much more than the US can harm China.

Trump is playing with fire here and it’s honestly not very smart. Not when the US has outsourced its industry to China.

No, it can't. China is an export economy that depends on foreign countries (primarily the US) buying its goods. Trade regulations hurt China more than they hurt the US by simple math. This fact is upheld by a review of China's pre-COVID GDP data.

The US also has guns.

The US cannot win a war against China. China can ramp up production of military equipment faster than the US can sign a war declaration.

So does China.

This makes no sense. China constructed the largest fence in the world to achieve what you say they achieve, then you say constructing a fence is showing weakness. This is utter nonsense.

"The US needs to recognize they're behind the game and behave like adults" okay so who is the adults? China? Then this IS behaving like adults as I outlined.

China has more fences then America.. great firewall, banned social media apps...

There is desperation here. But I think it is mostly Trump's: The election is less than 3 months away and absolutely everything is going pear-shape. He's diverting and deflecting. Chine is one issue is can appear strong. Banning tiktok is fluff that serves no other purpose than helping him for November.

From first principles reasoning, this is a good idea. We don’t ban Chinese websites, books or products. Although we tax their products more now. Apps aren’t like physical commodities. They can be used to gather data, quite invasively, shape and form public opinion in a new and more visceral way, as well as take advantage of exploits. Admittedly websites can do that too, but the scale of adoption of Tiktok makes this a special case. Just by sheer numbers, many important people will be using tiktok, or their families, colleagues and friends. If you ever complained about Russian election meddling, then you are a hypocrite if you don’t support this. What if tiktok was Russia’s? I think some people are getting lost in the politics.

The facts: we gain almost nothing by having tiktok around. We lose nothing by banning it, and gain a little bit of buffer against possible threats like election meddling, data mining for nefarious purposes and other things. Completely leaving politics aside, I basically support this.

> [...] we gain almost nothing by having tiktok around.

We gain an outlet or creativity that's particularly fun for teens. You might as well say that we gain nothing by banning skateboards, video games, or rock music.

I would agree more with the ban of there was any evidence of nefarious data mining by TikTok. Outside of weird Internet rumors they only seem to collect basic user data and whatever you write in your profile.

A better analogy for this situation is banning skateboards, video games, or rock music made in China. If TikTok is banned, most teens would switch to an American platform. Their outlet for creativity is not reduced, just changed.

>You might as well say that we gain nothing by banning skateboards, video games, or rock music.

I think apps are interchangeable in a way that tangle things are not. Vine was regarded as indispensable, until suddenly it was gone. And people miss it, but those creative energies have been channeled onto other platforms. Tiktok popped up practically out of nowhere. Now Triller is on the horizon, and who knows what after that.

>Outside of weird Internet rumors

Wowzwers, this does not even come within a country mile of accurate characterization. Tiktok is under investigation for censoring videos to satisfy the Chinese government, they have censored media related to Tiananmen square, have been flagged for 'severe' cybersecurity issues by a cybersecurity firm, and the app is now either restricted or being investigated by numerous countries including the US, India, Taiwan, and Australia.

> The facts: we gain almost nothing by having tiktok around. We lose nothing by banning it, and gain a little bit of buffer against possible threats like election meddling, data mining for nefarious purposes and other things. Completely leaving politics aside, I basically support this.

What about if all non-US countries start reasoning like you and ban Youtube, Facebook, ...?

If country X believes that Facebook is being used as an intelligence or opinion-shaping tool by the United States government then country X would be justified in trying to do something about it, in my opinion. And the loss of Facebook and it’s toxic effect on its users wouldn’t make me lose any sleep if I was a citizen in country X. And I think this is probably true. I know in Myanmar Facebook is insanely popular and I personally knew people very high up in the government who used Facebook and their whole family did as well. I’m confident that Facebook could use their records to effect almost any kind of change imaginable in Myanmar. Their access is mind blowing. Maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic but the point gets across.

As an EU citizen I hope the European Union (or the biggest governments that are part of it) will start seriously thinking about “nationalizing” the parts of Google and FB that operate in Europe, the same way MS is rumored to do with TikTok.

China has been doing that for over a decade and I don't know of anyplace where WeChat is banned.

China has also put dissident and unwanted people in 're-education' camps. Should we do that next?

> We lose nothing by banning it.

You lose freedom.

Would it be OK to also ban Burguers? They're unhealthy and you lose "nothing" by banning them.

A better analogy is banning burgers made by a specific company or country, and specific food is banned all the time by the FDA. Banning TikTok is not the same as banning all services similar to it. You do lose a bit of freedom by not having the choice to use a particular service, but this is much less loss of freedom than your analogy to ban a type of something.

> we gain almost nothing by having tiktok around. We lose nothing by banning it

That's bold. There used to be a principle of freedom that allowed things not explicitly banned, and banning things would require a good reason.

Is this kind of capriciousness the new normal now?

You seem personally offended but I believe this is a good reason. We ban all kinds of things. So you think we shouldn’t ban guns? You think we shouldn’t ban any kind of speech, including doxxing and death threats? You think we shouldn’t ban cancerous chemicals? This is mental gymnastics at the Olympic level. Of course we ban things sometimes.

Banning a widespread intelligence gathering and opinion shaping tool of the Chinese government is completely reasonable.

I love China and Chinese culture but it would be extremely unfair for TikTok to be allowed to succeed when China bans all popular Western communication tools.

Wait, so we should turn ourselves into China? You actually want to mimic their authoritarian approach to media?

> We lose nothing by banning it,

Except, you know, our rights to the government not controlling our media.

What about Reddit and Riot and everyone else owned or invested in by Tencent and other Chinese companies?

Likely to turn out similar to when the UK banned the Sex Pistols' first album. It will become a must-have item for those in their rebellious teen years.

Wasn't microsoft trying to acquire tiktok? Why not just let that happen rather than try to do something so extreme?

I'm not partial to tiktok at all but this is way to much of a big government move than I feel comfortable with.

Isn't this a violation of our first amendment rights?

Honestly, Microsoft could purchase TikTok in its entirety and I still wouldn’t believe that it’s anything more than a front for the Chinese government. MS has a reputation for being exceedingly cozy with governments.

No matter how they try to spin off or rebrand this product or abandon ties to the old parent company, I’d never trust it as much as something entirely new.

If the NSA tried putting out a social media network, nobody would trust it. If they sold it off completely and had zero official NSA employees, nobody would trust it. And rightfully so. TikTok feels the same to me.

> If the NSA tried putting out a social media network, nobody would trust it.

How ironic to see this statement on HN, when almost every American trusts Google or Facebook despite them being PRISM partners and subject to the control of the NSA.

Not really ironic here, since the top voted comment on every thread about Google or Facebook is about exactly that problem.

I didn't know how to voice my feelings and thoughts on this, but your post sums it all up perfectly. Thank you.

To lower the asking price further, I think. If you can lower it by a few billions by threatening to use an executive order, someone is going to use that power.

Or maybe they just want to ban TikTok and the above conspiracy theory is BS.

> Isn't this a violation of our first amendment rights?

Arguably it would be a violation of the Bill of Attainder Clause.

because they wouldn't sell it under normal conditions. now they have to and cheaper

First amendment rights don’t apply to foreign companies.

I see this as the same thing as banning Huawei.

The first amendment is a negative right: it forbids the government from acting. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..." The Supreme Court has historically ruled on a regular basis that most US Constitutional protections extend to non citizens too. Unfortunately the conservatively biased Supreme Court last month decided that interfering with freedom of speech is OK against a foreign company. A loss for freedom and a victory for authoritarianism.

Furthermore, historically our country merely postures about rights. They go out the window when politicians start using words like “national security.”

So what happens from the practical point of view? Is the government going to delete an app from the phones of 80 million people? Really curious to see this one.

It would be a legal request via Apple.

But from a truly practical point of view, TikTok will just end up replaced by a homegrown version. The real question is, who's homegrown version will be the winner?

I believe FB and Snap are both privately working on a replacement. Not sure about others.

I haven't used it so I don't actually know, but what does TikTok do that most of the other existing video apps that TikTok eclipsed didn't already (or don't now) do?

It's recommendation system is way better. In particular, it lets you tell it "I don't want to see more videos like this", and does a decent job of sticking to that.

So how do you ban an app actually? Yes they could remove the app from the app store but what about the APIs etc...?

Also the next TikTok clone is going to be a massive succes.

> Also the next TikTok clone is going to be a massive succes.

Instagram has already come up with Instagram Reels. After India banned TikTok, Instagram released Reels to the Indian market within the week, and I've got to say it's pretty darn similar to tiktok, so essentially just capitalising on their already humongous user base and the ban.


Banning the app from the app stores should pretty much kill it from the consumer point of view, which is what Trump is trying to mitigate. I don't see how that won't be effective.

i don't think there is very big competition among US ISPs, so just ask few biggest ISPs to block their traffic and it's dead, I don't think kids would go through trouble of setting VPN

This is 100% Sarah Cooper’s fault.


If I had to guess, there’s 2 sides to this coin.

On one side, there is the concern over China’s connection with Tiktok and their foreign influence on the US.

On the other side, shutting off access to Tiktok allows more domestic control over what mass communication options people have to interact with each other.

There’s something to be gained for someone(s) in both cases.

The thing is other countries can now use the this precedent to demand domestic control of US social media companies.

France may have a the same foreign influence concerns issue with the non-transparency of the FB news feed algo.

Is the ban driven by the fact that Tiktok users helped boycott the rally at Tulsa?

While a lot these comments are interesting, the real reason our idiot president wants to ban tiktok is because they messed up one of his events. Then he irrationally hates China. He is an idiot.

This could only lose him votes. He's obviously isolated himself from the savvy political operatives that rode him into victory last time.

I welcome the continued missteps

> This could only lose him votes

Yes, but he has probably decided that the people who are active TikTok users AND Trump voters are not a large part of the base.

The young "gamer republican" and the people wooed by flashy Milo types really helped push him over in the rust belt last time. How out of date that sounds now just shows how much he's lost that group.

His calculation is wrong. There's a few remaining bowties in the under 30 group but now probably not more than any other time.

Lucky for him the democrats are profoundly incompetent and would find a way to trip over their own shoelaces while walking barefoot so it may not matter.

If any other country in the world did this to, say, Facebook, we would denounce them as an illegitimate dictator. Astonishing.

That literally has happened already when Iran banned Facebook and Twitter during protest against election fraud that lead to Ahmadinejad to stay in power for second term.

However, Iran banned Facebook merely because it was being used by protesters to share content about police brutality during protest.

So I'm not sure if that's a fair comparison.

I think governments are realizing that social networks are important strategic service because of the amount of data they capture. Before internet era countries were protecting way less data about their citizens with their teeths.

If you think the he’s banning TikTok for any other reason than teenagers sharing content about police brutality during protests, you really are a mooncalf..

I have yet to hear an explanation of how a TikTok ban would even work here. We’re not authoritarian like China, the gov can’t just tell all the internet service providers to block a website.

If we do introduce the legal/logistical mechanism for the federal government to be able to do that, I can assure you they won’t stop at just tiktok.

Hopefully this becomes a wake-up call to investors in China tech. Instead of funding another social media app, they should invest in core technologies like semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

The success of the STAR market is a good start. Hope the momentum can sustain this decade, then we may see the tables turned.

Did Zuck finally learn how to play the game?

Yup. Amazing intervention from Zuck. He has effectively secured TikTok’s userbase. To be a fly on a wall during his backdoor deals with Trump...

I don't get it. TicToc was and still is operating in US under Chinese control. Now American company (MS) wants to take control over the service effectively ending Chinese ownership and suddenly US president decides to ban the service. Isn't it against American business?

Wouldn't ban it if Parler acquired it.

I'm divided about this. Banning TikTok can be seen as censorship and restricting the freedom of its users, some of which are in the US.

But it's also clear that TikTok is under the control of the CCP, at least to the extent the CCP wants that to be the case at any given time.

Perhaps I'm overly cynical but this doesn't feel like some semi-well reasoned policy based upon control of the app by the Chinese government as much as "they embarrassed me in Tulsa, I want them gone."

Sigh, very hypocritical but I guess we can't let a non-american company siphon our data. I wouldn't mind if we didn't keep yelling 'freedom' and 'free market' every week into the social abyss. But but China does it too you say? They never claimed theirs is a free market did they? Definitely solidifying for me, banning social media apps LMAO! Their minds are only for our feed no? Good proof that we are easily manipulated by feeds. Why not educate for better content consumption? Oh because then we will lose our own influence. So lets remain dumb and stare at screens only approved by our great western lords. Pathetic IC, pathetic.

Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, as well as strong regimentation of society and of the economy. What could this president argue that he has done that doesn't characterize as the above?

Trump on Xi:

"He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great, and look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday"

Communism and fascism are alike. One has an international perspective, one has a national perspective, but the politics and control are very similar. They both exert control over the economy and culture. Interestingly, Lenin was more internationalist than Stalin. People don’t like hearing this because some still think communism is redeemable despite all evidence to the contrary.

China isn't Communist though. They're a socialist leaning capitalist state with single party authoritarian rule participating in ethnic cleansing.

That's fascist.

China is a hybrid. Their roots lay in communism, but thru also draw heavily from Confucianism when convenient. Related to the last point, they do not share the roots of western philosophy, but rather eastern which makes comparisons difficult. That said, they claim to be die hard communists with Chinese values, as they put it.

I find it interesting that if someone on the right calls themselves capitalists or whatever, that’s taken at face value, but if someone calls themselves communists but they have some accompanying unpleasant characteristics it automatically disqualifies them as being true communists.

Their economic system is state sponsored capitalism but their government and everything else is communist.

With all the threats the company is receiving, any company buying it out might be getting it at give away price. Could this be considered hostile take over?

This is exactly the kind of power that you don't want any government to have. I'm sure we will continue to see more of this happening in the future.

This should be a starting point for a tit-for-tat game where for every western company China bans, the West does the same. And for every stolen IP, we do the same

Yes, let’s turn ourselves into an authoritarian regime banning media and information outlets we don’t like!

This should be through legislative action not the word of an idiot.

That's the travesty. Personally I'm okay with banning tiktok but not this way. The way matters.

The headline should be “US launches great firewall”

Can some explain to a layman what China has to gain from millions of Tiktok users data? I just don't get it. Emails and passwords?

How long would it take for a US company to create a TikTok clone? Are there any moats here? Any IP or other barriers to entry?

TikTok itself is basically a clone of Vine, which dates back to 2013. The barrier to entry is that China (either Chinese investors or the Chinese government through various puppets depending who you ask) sank a ridiculous amount of money into marketing and attracting users to get it off the ground, and also that it enjoyed a local monopoly in China because similar US apps are banned. There's nothing particularly unique about the tech itself.

Well there’s a long history of authoritarians banning social media platforms in order to silence dissent.

You call it censorship. They call it protecting national security;

This is just pressure to ensure Bytedance sells to Microsoft

I'm more worried about the effect this will have on the overall public perception of the TikTok issue than anything else.

During a time of such intense civil unrest, when people are letting strong emotions and groupthink guide them in lieu of reason, I have a feeling this that many will be quick to jump on a bandwagon that's unduly sympathetic to TikTok.

I think I have a pretty good idea of how the media (both social and mainstream) is going to portray this. They'll suddenly forget about the long list of legitimate reasons why TikTok is majorly problematic, and present it as being something where poor little TikTok is being unfairly targeted by big evil xenophobic Trump.

You could make a legitimate argument for why it's unconstitutional or sets a bad precedent for Trump to do this, but that unfortunately doesn't change the one-dimensional way most people are gonna see this.

That's my fear too.

People have such short memories, and media cycles are too quick. I'm the least fan of Trump, but this is truly one area that the US is taking a stronger stance on than even in my own home country (which I considered more moral, until now).

My conspiracy theory: Silicon Valley (Facebook) couldn’t compete with TikTok so they leaned on Trump to kill it. The fact that TikTok is a massive hotbed of anti-Trump memes the way Facebook is pro-Trump/anti-Biden is also curious.

The national security angle is laughable because we have no such controls over the data held by US companies. Would be trivial for a spy to pipe data out of FAANG to the country they serve - because we have no real privacy laws at the national level. Just look at how a 17 year old breached Twitter.

If social media apps are national security concerns then we should treat them like we do typical defense contractors (background checked/nat security clearance for employees, no foreign nationals on board, control foreign investment, export limitations, etc)

My conspiracy theory is that Trump is mad about TikTok kids pranking his Tulsa COVID-19 Death Rally.

No question the mere implication of that made this decision easier for him.

Don’t worry teens: theres always Reels(tm) your government-sanctioned viral video feature!

I don't believe Trump's banning TikTok because of its Chinese connections.

I think this is a retalitory action because of its use to mess with his reelection. Brad Pascale got demoted over the Tulsa debacle and this is Trump's way to get back at the TikTok users.

While checking my facts, I noticed someone at Forbes was also thinking that its only about Trump as usual and put together a timeline.


Under what authority?

A dozen paragraphs in the article and not one questioning whether he can actually do this. What would such an executive action look like? An EO to Apple and Google to de-list the app from their stores? Why should they comply?

What's he going to do when ByteDance uploads the .apk somewhere?

Sick of media treating this man like a zoo exhibit instead of the advanced persistent threat to US democracy he is.

There's a good discussion of his different legal options here: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/24/trump-cant-ban-tiktok-f...

Summary of which seems to be that in general there is not absolute authority available for banning TikTok, but there are some novel/emergency measures possible to put some restrictions on ByteDance, but which are all rather new and untested, some of whose adminstrative rules/regulation are yet only being formulated(they many not be ready for implementation for many months if not weeks), mostly all of which will expose the federal action to be scrutinized by courts if ByteDance decides to goto court.

If ByteDance goes to court? How about when Apple and Google go to court... A president unilaterally shutting down a foreign business would destroy trust in their centralized app stores. I can't imagine both companies will just nod their heads and roll over.

So does Trump really expect TikTok to just disappear like COVID, or is the actual play here to give Trump a strong talking point to fire up his remaining supporters? He'll undoubtedly group constitutionality-litigating Apple/Google with "the left", like everything else that conflicts with his 1850's world view.

FWIW TikTok may be problematic, but it's only slightly more problematic than all of the US-based spyware that has apparently been acceptable for the past decade. The rest of the world has just had to live with the US being able to surveil most of their citizens' digital activity. Now there's a whiff of symmetry and the panic bells are going off.

Apps like TikTok are way less problematic than, like, messengers. If the app is all about publishing things, why is anyone talking about privacy?!

Under the Bernstein v. United States ruling software source code is protected under the 1st amendment, I do not know if this holds true for binaries as well though. I guess if TikTok distributed only its source code and it was compiled by the user the gov would be able to do nothing about it.

If TikTok distributed its source code, people would have a much clearer understanding of things that the app does and doesn't do.

One could not inspect the data flow after it left the client, but it would still show far more than we normally see from major social-media vendors.

they could just block the servers, no?

> What's he going to do when ByteDance uploads the .apk somewhere?

I don't think most Android users know how to install an apk, and as far as I know a similar distribution model is not possible on iOS.

Fortnite was a widely successful mobile application for a long time, distributed outside of the app store and with the same audience as TikTok - it's not as hard as it would seem to teach people to sideload.

It wouldn’t matter. To make it effective the FCC would likely ask all the ISPs and Carriers to block TikTok IPs at the network level.

Have US ISPs ever been asked/told to block IPs (or even DNS) before? I don't think it's something the FCC could do, especially since they've abdicated most of their authority over the internet to the FTC. Even still, I doubt they have the authority to do it or the means to impose penalties for noncompliance.

Even if they could - what is a TikTok IP? I'm confident their US endpoints are AWS or Google Cloud - good luck blocking those.

I’m pretty sure that at TikTok level you need operate with a VPC and have your own range of IPs.

Also ISPs and Mobile Carriers have their own blocking and network redirection methods, like url filtering with transparent proxies, that are used to re-lane traffic based on bandwidth usage. a.k.a putting Netflix on the slow lane

I don't think the FCC will move that fast to do something this drastic but I could be wrong. This whole move will likely anger a lot of people and feel authoritarian because they aren't use to the government censoring the media they consume.

FCC is completely aligned with this administration policies. I think they would totally act fast if asked.

Teens would be able to figure it out within minutes. It’s not difficult, it just isn’t required knowledge for most users (yet?)

I know for iOS you can change the location of your account and have access to download apps outside the US. I wonder if Tik Tok users will do this and download/use the app anyways

Which VPN company is public traded? ;)

> What's he going to do when ByteDance uploads the .apk somewhere?

This is a social network which gains from network effects / usage. A social network only accessible to Android users is a ghetto. The vast majority of young people in America use iPhones.

The last time the majority of internet users managed to disobey the government was the heyday of torrenting and Megaupload. That's not going to happen with today's users and today's walled gardens.

The ban will most likely be network based, not just App Store. So apk will probably be useless.

How would a network ban be enforced? TikTok doesn't even communicate directly with Chinese servers - I block connections to China on my home network, and my kids can still use TikTok on the wifi, so I'm confident there are US servers.

I even more doubt that we have the infrastructure in place to do a network-level ban (whatever that would mean) for a single app. It is much easier for me to believe Google/Apple could be strong-armed or sweet-toothed into delisting the app, if it really came down to it.

China is likely considered by many to be a threat to democracy, which is part of the reasoning behind this

Looks more like US democracy is collapsing from the inside than due to external factors.

Also, mostly thanks to foreign actors manipulating technology. Hope we are all seeing the pattern here.

Pardon my phrasing, but that's some bullshit buck-passing.

If 100 russians or whomever can subvert our democracy, we never really had it together to begin with, did we?

Maybe, and this sounds crazy, but maybe it's domestic people trying to whip up a fallacious outside threat for insider political reasons. A totally unheard of phenomenon.

Considering spies and espionage literally turned the tide of two world wars, you might be selling the effectiveness of it short when conducted at a nation-state level.

Again to your reply, I don't think you understand how pervasive and wide reaching it has become. We are talking about entire groups of protesters and counter-protesters being organized and subsequently funded through donation platforms solely by foreign social accounts.

Great, but that doesn't answer my question:

What authority does a US president have to tell a US-based software company to not distribute code from its US servers?

Tiktok is not a US-based software company, they're a private company from China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bytedance

There's been precedent set recently with e.g. Huawei: https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/15/18216988/white-house-huaw..., but also keep in mind we have dealt with much stronger things in the past: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_of_cryptography_from_th...

> Tiktok is not a US-based software company, they're a private company from China

It doesn't really matter, because the app code is repackaged at the Google/Apple level. At that point, it is from US-company to US-consumer. There are no "import restrictions" or customs on code (speech) like there are on hardware.

What point are you trying to make here? That the US Government does not have the sovereign authority to determine what companies operate within its borders?

Edit: Yeah, instead of downvoting this into oblivion, how about making an argument that the US Government doesn't have the authority to determine what companies operate within its borders.

> but also keep in mind we have dealt with much stronger things in the past: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_of_cryptography_from_th....

Which was ruled unconstitutional.

> What authority does a US president have to tell a US-based software company to not distribute code from its US servers?

Well it has the authority that is backed up by both the most powerful economic nation, that has the most powerful military in the world, and which is the nation that contains many of the most valuable companies in the world, which will absolutely follow the orders of our judges.

That cannot justify/authorize possible arbitrary measures by the US executive. US presidents powers are certainly not absolute.

Also this while apple and Google play stores have not found problems with the TikTok to kick it off their app stores.

I don’t think this is a particularly helpful path to take the conversation down. Both Trump and China can be threats to democracy, we don’t need to play one off the other to make one look better by comparison.

Only if you drink Trumps racist FUD propaganda. All I see is US bullying China clearly

If Tiktok is the greatest "threat" than obviously there is less than meets the eye. More likely NSA can't spy on US citizens. Its so obviously easy to check out and block. If I were China, I just make things transparent in the age of built in backdoors would be huge untapped market.

It wouldnt work on five eye, but the other 200+ nations would be won [keep it coming haters]

> advanced persistent threat to US democracy

I don't see what this has to do with our electoral system.

That seems like a rather narrow and emotionally charged stance to take on this issue in my opinion.

The executive branch taking wild swings to impose rules that even congress would struggle to pass through constitutional review, is a threat to the democratic principles on which the US is based.

Why would congress struggle to pass it through a constitutional review?

Plenty of Trump's EOs have been ruled unconstitutional. He may feel that his authority extends beyond checks and balances, but it doesn't. His attempts to abuse his power have been duly mitigated and stopped about as well (or badly depending on how you look at it) as the last few presidents, as I see it.

> Why would congress struggle to pass it through a constitutional review?

Because a computer program is an expression, and the right to free expression is a cornerstone of the first amendment. So broadly, I don't think the government can "ban" an app, no matter who wrote it.

This proposition has been tested and affirmed for source code (see DeCSS t-shirt, etc.) but to my knowledge has not been tested for binaries. So, it would at minimum be a new test of whether binary code is as much a protected expression as human-readable code.

Ok. That's an argument for why this is unconstitutional, but not for why congress would be unable to declare it so.

> Under what authority?

Under the authority of an executive order.

> Why should they comply?

Because these are american companies, who make a bunch of their money in america, and they can be fined many millions or even billions of dollars, or possibly even arrested if they don't comply with the orders of the nation that has the most powerful military in the world.

> What's he going to do when ByteDance uploads the .apk somewhere?

Probably just fine ByteDance, which has a US presence, and many employees/bank accounts that are in the US.

Blatant refusal to follow the law of the most powerful military in the world can be followed up with arrests of employees/executives that are in the US.

So you basically reject the overarching principle of limited government? Want to go full Melian Dialogue? The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must?

The problem with ruling arbitrarily is that it kills predictability and crushes the spirit. It leads to a state of fear in which nobody wants to invest or go out on a limb, because in an environment where you can be punished for anything, everything is dangerous.

That's why I'm personally adamant about requiring a rule before a punishment and why I'm dubious on this recent "let's sanction this one random foreign guy" push.

> So you basically reject the overarching principle of limited government?

It is a good general principle to follow, as a very high level rule.

But when a country is in conflict with other nation states, that are not following the same principles as you are, then sometimes a country has to make comprises on their principles in order to not be at a disadvantage.

So if China changes a bunch of their own rules, and becomes a much more free and open country, then I would support giving them the benefit of small government/free market protections.

Nation states conflicts are messy. And you have to compromise on some of your principles in order to prevent others from taken advantage of you, who do not follow your own principles.

> The problem with ruling arbitrarily

It is not arbitrary. The USA is in serious conflict with China. And this is one such action that is at least indirectly related to these higher level nation state conflicts.

Your last sentence shows you are not objective.

This is the same thing as Huawei being banned.

> Your last sentence shows you are not objective.

Correct, I am not objective on this topic and made no such implication. If we were all simply objective observational automatons, it would make for a pretty sterile comment section.

> This is the same thing as Huawei being banned.

Someone else said this earlier, and it's pretty different: one is a physical good that goes through customs where there are existing laws that allow for denial of entry. The other is code/speech for which there are no laws granting the executive branch the authority to block.

My guess: National security as in Huawei https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/15/18216988/white-house-huaw...

Let's be realistic, if an app was doing what is alleged here, they should be banned and I'm sure they are provisions to do so without a vote of Congress. Biden campaign was also told to delete TikTok from phones, maybe NSA knows something.

> if an app was doing what is alleged here, they should be banned

Yep, I also believe that would be in violation of Google/Apple ToS and they would be happy to ban it.

> I'm sure they are provisions to do so without a vote of Congress.

I highly doubt it, and I am waiting to be shown otherwise.

>>I highly doubt it, and I am waiting to be shown otherwise.

I showed it to you, Huawei. USA gives a LOT of power to the President, sanctions, bans etc etc.

Preventing the purchase and import of physical equipment into the US is a lot different than preventing the import of code/speech. I fully understand the former is allowed, but I highly doubt the president possesses the authority to do the latter.

This has been the case since the launch of the App Store. It’s not new. When uploading an app to Apple App Store, you have to do disclosures about cryptography exports.

The US prevented the export of code/speech for decades, in fact I’m fairly sure it’s illegal to import recordings of certain speech.

So, there federal government will not be allowed to use TikTok? That's not much of a "ban".

If TikTok is put on the Entities List (doesn’t require congressional review), then Apple and Google will be banned from doing business with TikTok. This forces TikTok off the App Store and Play Store, effectively killing the app globally.

> advanced persistent threat to US democracy

We are a Republic.

Republics are democracies. They're just not direct democracies.

This might also help: https://mises.org/wire/stop-saying-were-republic-not-democra...

No, republic is just a form of government, which may or may not be democratic. People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are prime exemples.

In this context, "democracy" is used in the broad sense, meaning the codified national value of self-government by the population. The distinction that there are elected representatives rather than direct votes isn't relevant.

If we are being needlessly pedantic, the traditional US definition of a "republic" is a democracy, but just not a direct democracy (I'm not aware of any modern countries that are), which I suspect is what you were trying to point out:



Even more Article 4, Section 4 of the constitution:

>The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government


This was probably more necessary when "democracy" usually referred to Athenian democracy, which obviously doesn't scale much beyond a city state.

> Trump’s comments come as it was reported Friday that Microsoft has held talks to buy the TikTok video-sharing mobile app from Chinese owner ByteDance.

He's ensuring msft can get them at a good price. Trump is very aware of the power of signaling whether it pans out or not.

Let's discuss a technical matter.

What's the best VPN to get around this ban?

Without US creators TikTok will be lifeless for US market. The creators will leave nevertheless if majority of the audience can't be reached

So no. VPN won't work

Well.. maybe. On the other hand, when Russian gov tried to ban Telegram, it only got more popular, nobody stopped posting, even government officials continued to use it, grocery chains continued to advertise their support bots, grandparents were asking young people to configure proxies on their phones… the ban was a colossal failure and recently it was unbanned.

A smart business can use this kind of ban for a PR advantage, they can make their app into a symbol of resistance.

they won't be able to monetize so will leave regardless of how many fans (otherwise would have to explain to the IRS receiving money from a chinese app banned in the name of national security)

The content will be different. Most of the content creator will likely leave.

I assume any VPN would do.

Wouldn’t it depend upon where the VPN is hosted?

What it depends upon is not your IP location but in what country your Apple/Google account was said to be made in

They should change the name of the app. The kids would figure it out in 10 minutes and reinstall. Trump would take a couple years to sort that one out.

good riddance

I’m not sure I’d call getting rid of our first amendment rights a “good riddance.”

It’s an app that China created to spy on and promote degeneracy in other countries

This is an outrageous violation of the rights of people here. We should also wake up and be against this kind of behavior of the government ... first it raised import tax to make things more expensive for us, then it ban apps we can use on our own phone ... all in the fake name of national security, etc., this is exactly a communist government would do! Wake up folks and stand up against!

Why not make a Trump channel to reach young minds to vote.

Zoom should be next.

OK is this legitimately happening? Or is it something Trump randomly spouted out to a reporter?

does it really matter? if they run polls showing public support they can go with it whoever's idea is it

Welcome to US politics for the past 3 and a half years. It’s a hell of a thing not knowing how serious anything he says means on any given day, imagine being on the other side of his fence when it comes to human rights.

This is not about TikTok. This is about Trump being desperate.

When Trump said he was gonna build a wall, I didn't know it was gonna be a great fire wall.

This seals Trump's fate at elections. Young voters will dump him on a blink of an eye

Most of Tiktok users aren’t of voting age.

60% are over 18. Granted 18-25 year olds don't vote.

TikTok should be banned everywhere, it’s crap app

Thanks for the insightful comment.

It's nice to see the HN crowd drop their facade of caring about freedom.

And rightly so. Keep banning their apps and keep banning their web sites.

They do it to us.

I think it's absurd that there's an Azure and an Azure China. There's a drop-down list where I can pick Australia South East, South India, Japan West, Korea Central... but not China anything.

Chinese citizens are perfectly entitled to spin up a web server in Azure, or AWS, or GCP, any time, any country where they have data centres.

But.. oh no, we non-Chinese-citizens without a permanent address in China aren't allowed to have the reciprocal ability to create a web server in their country. That might step on the CCP's toes. It might spread dangerous information like democracy! It might compete with their government-run businesses. They might not get their beak wet, you see, and that's a problem. No can do. Gotta play the game, take part in the corruption, or no website for you.

Trump talks a lot of talk, but if he really wanted a "fair trade deal", he should just cut them off completely from the Internet. Fuck the great firewall. Fuck dragging people off to "reeducation camps" because they posted the wrong thing online. Fuck banned phrases like Winnie the Pooh.

We should all teach these people a lesson: You can't have it both ways. You can't have censorship and profit off of our freedoms. Pick one.

he has my full support and should continue with WeChat/QQ to let Chinese taste their own medicine

lived for years in China, good luck communicating with anyone outside China legally in other way than through email and some obscure (video) call apps

I think the biggest thing that bugs me is that the American public didn't let Vine grow and make money. Instead we're either banning and blocking TTok or giving China a huge amount of money. I don't like giving China money. Ban them

I am sad Vine died, but "American Public didn't let Vine grow" is not accurate. More "Twitter couldn't figure out how to make Vine a thing"...

Like Friendster or Myspace, I think the main obstacle was being slightly too early to market.

The creators of Vine actually launched a Tiktok competitor few months ago. I think it is called Byte:


America is dead and we have killed it. Long live China. Long live Russia. Long live Canada. Make way for the 21st century, Americans!

What are the predictions for which U.S. tech company would be banned by China as retaliation?

My top pick is -

LinkedIn (Most other U.S. social networks are already banned in mainland China anyways, then again LinkedIn is being used extensively by Chinese to do Business with outside world; So I wonder whether China would dare to pull the plug).

Or it may just ban Instagram, Snapchat in HongKong as there is no ban for such U.S. apps in HongKong currently and that technical governance differences with mainland is fast evaporating. But, I wonder whether banning apps in HK would amount to appropriate retaliation in terms of market size.

It's ridiculous that you even talk about retaliation in a post where you acknowledge that anything that would be a worthy retaliation is already banned!

I think it's ridiculous to say, China wouldn't even consider retaliation. It has to appease its domestic audience like any other country irrespective of the differences in governance model.

Of course China is going to retaliate. That doesn't mean we shouldn't consider that ridiculous.

Of course you can, but the parent didn't call that ridiculous, but me talking about China's retaliation.

Apple makes $50 billion in revenues a year from the China market. Would people still buy it's phones if the App store or mobile data was shut-off?

Huh, now that would be some fantastic retaliation from China!

If there is any rule of law in the country, this should be against the constitution.

If the US does this, they'll be losing a lot of goodwill founders from other countries have about the US.

The US is uniquely thought of as a part of every country for business. If you're from third world country but you'd like to do a tech business in the US, you're free to do so without much hurdles by the government. Open competition. No other country is like that.

This is what separated the US from the rest of countries like China. You'd dream that in case your startup got big, you'd move to the US, and hire quality engineers/researchers there. You'd like American protection on free speech to protect your company. Your company would not be banned for 'hurting' people. Rule of law. This is increasingly no longer the case.

Now the US is starting to feel like China and the EU more and more. Even if China's economy was bigger than the US, the US would still be in a good position because of their appearance and rule of law. When it's going to be similar to China, why not just do business with China first altogether since they're going to be the bigger economy? China is slowly becoming more liberal to founders from 3rd world countries now. While America seems to not notice this right now, China is slowly becoming more open to competition from poorer countries. The difference is stark even compared to 5 years ago.

Maybe China might not be so much fair right now to American companies because of a power imbalance where the US is too far ahead on certain things that they feel like after their companies catch up, they want to allow open competition. And they seem to progressing to this trajectory.

Australia, India have already banned it. UK is probably next too.

How exactly is this against the constitution?

Was banning Huawei unconstitutional too?

Australia has not banned it.

India has banned it through possible dubious legal means wouldn't pass muster in most western countries, which I think ByteDance expects will be lifted sometime in the future, since they haven't gone to court over it, and seemingly engaging in some sort of dialogue with the government over it. India had earlier banned it for sometime over allegations of 'pornography', but that was lifted.

You're going to need a source for Australia banning it.

I hope to god that China halts trade with the US to show it what a real trade war looks like. It would put an end to the bullshit US exceptionalism of our country, and maybe we’d become more civilized players in the world stage as we learn some humility.

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