Does America’s TikTok Ban Spell the End of the Open Internet?

One of the most dramatic stories pertaining to the world of tech for the past couple of years has been the controversy surrounding TikTok’s presence in America. The rapidly rising social media platform put better established companies like Facebook in jeopardy, and YouTube began to feel the squeeze as well with all things having been considered and taken into account.

In spite of the fact that this is the case, the prospect of future growth has been stifled somewhat by calls from US politicians to enact a ban on the social media company’s American presence. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that a few parallels can be drawn between America’s desire to ban TikTok and China’s ban on Facebook and Twitter a decade or so ago.

The ban is being referred to as an attempt to reform the tech industry, but it has to be mentioned that there might be something more underhanded afoot. While TikTok is certainly guilty of harvesting massive quantities of user data, this is no different from what true blue American companies like Facebook and Google have been doing for decades by this point.

The undeniable reality of China’s authoritarian regime is something that needs to be factored in, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that the surveillance state is using TikTok to spy on American consumers. Quite on the contrary, TikTok in America seems to be operating like pretty much any other social media platform that US based consumers are already quite familiar with.

For one thing, Chinese data brokers are not doing anything that American data brokers aren’t. These data brokers have access to the exact same data as China, and if Chinese companies wanted to get their hands on it, they would simply need to contact these brokers and buy the sensitive data far more easily than might have been the case otherwise.

This is not to say that TikTok definitively isn’t being used as some kind of a surveillance tool by the Chinese Communist Party. Rather, it is quite telling that the Chinese company has become the main focus and impetus for tech reforms because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up a bias on the part of American lawmakers.

One thing that bears mentioning here is that a blanket ban on TikTok is not the most likely outcome. Rather, the Biden administration might be using a potential ban as a proverbial stick to entice TikTok into selling its American operations to a locale enterprise because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up keeping all the data within the nation.

Even people who used to be a part of Biden’s administration are being quite blunt about the intent here. Tim Wu, who acted Biden’s special assistant for technology and competition said in rather plain terms that this ban is simply an attempt to dismantle China’s supremacy.

It will be interesting to see how these events play out. No matter what occurs, the results will have a huge impact on the future of the tech industry.

Read next: Chinese Apps Are Booming Across The US But Most American Apps Can’t Operate In China
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