TikTok ‘Ban’ — ByteDance CEO and EFF are BFFs – Security Boulevard

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Shou Zi Chew (pictured) plays for time, while Electronic Frontier Foundation says TikTok-kill bill is DOA.

As the House bill to force ByteDance to divest TikTok gains momentum, the EFF weighs in against it. In a nutshell, the foundation’s argument is: We need privacy protections from all apps—not just TikTok—and the constitution prevents laws limiting speech (even state sponsored misinformation).

EFF: Useful idiots? Or concerned guardians of freedom? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we see the irony.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your enter­tainment. Not to mention: The ironies.

7521 Momentum Builds

What’s the craic? Demetri Sevastopulo, James Fontanella-Khan, Tabby Kinder, Eleanor Olcott, Cristina Criddle and Kathrin Hille report—“The battle over TikTok”:

The ship is sinking
ByteDance … chief executive Shou Zi Chew expressed confusion: “There’s a lot of noise, … but I haven’t heard exactly what we’ve done that is wrong.” It was a strange comment because lawmakers have been explicit about their concerns. … Chew was also told directly by lawmakers what they felt was wrong in March last year.

The Chinese government has made clear that it does not want ByteDance to divest TikTok, and most people close to ByteDance insist that the company will not sell. … The immediate question for TikTok is what the Senate now does. … Already several key senators have come out strongly in favour [of the bill].

For those who work at TikTok, the situation in Congress has only added to the pressure on them. Morale was already low … but it has declined further as management has communicated little to them. … “The ship is sinking and all my colleagues are talking about how much our severance packages will be,” says one.

This is about Chinese state interference. Shaomin Li explains the nuance—“Is TikTok’s parent company an agent of the Chinese state?”:

Americans’ private data
In my opinion – forged through 40 years as a scholar of China, its political economy and business – [these] questions obscure a more interesting point. What’s more, they suggest a crucial misunderstanding of the relationship between state and private enterprise in China. Simply put, there’s no clear line between the state and society in China.

And that goes for private enterprises, too. They operate like joint ventures in which the government is both a partner and the ultimate boss. … Under the increasingly centralized control of Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has evidently opted to run the entire country as a giant corporation. … Since those who disobey the party are weeded out, … private businesses are party supporters – either voluntarily or otherwise. … As long as ByteDance owns TikTok, I believe ByteDance will use TikTok to support the party.

China’s National Intelligence Law granted broad powers to the country’s spy agencies and obligates companies to assist with intelligence efforts. That’s why some American lawmakers are concerned that ByteDance could be forced to hand over Americans’ private data to the Chinese state.

Not only privacy, but also misinformation. The EFF’s Hudson Hongo and David Greene pose “Questions to Ask Before Backing the TikTok Ban”:

First Amendment right
The speed at which lawmakers have moved to advance a bill with such a significant impact on speech is alarming. It has given many … little time to consider the actual justifications for such a law.

If the TikTok bill is about privacy, why aren’t lawmakers passing comprehensive privacy laws? It is indeed alarming how much information TikTok and other social media platforms suck up. … This is why the EFF strongly supports comprehensive data privacy legislation [but] Congress has consistently failed to enact [any]. China is not unique in requiring companies in the country to provide information: … In the United States, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act … authorizes the mass collection of communication data.

It has been well-established law for almost 60 years that U.S. people have a First Amendment right to receive foreign propaganda. … A forced sale based on objections to content acts as a backdoor attempt to control speech. … The U.S. has deemed restrictions on the free flow of information to be undemocratic [but] if the TikTok bill becomes law, the U.S. will lose much of its moral authority on this vital principle.

Well, we do need a federal privacy law. Not so fast, says Matt Stoller—“The TikTok Problem Is Not What You Think”:

This legislation has to be understood not as a substitute … for reform of social media and privacy, but as part of it. … While it’s true that Congress hasn’t passed a ‘comprehensive Federal privacy law,’ it’s also true the Biden administration is orchestrating a remarkable revolution in privacy protections by resurrecting old legal tools.

It turns out, people really don’t like it when corporations, or employers, abusers, etc know when they go to the doctor, church, a political rally, a gay bar, and so forth. And the industry of data brokers [is] listening … because of a little noticed but pivotal legal change in enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission. … Basically, a judge said, “Yeah, that old FTC law that says ‘unfair and deceptive practices are illegal’ does actually apply.”

The sea change in privacy isn’t about one agency. … For instance, the Antitrust Division has two antitrust lawsuits against Google. … The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken action to address shoddy data practices. … It is also considering rules mandating that data brokers … be regulated as “consumer reporting agencies.” … The Health and Human Services Department is fighting with hospitals over … sharing web browsing data with Google, and the National Security Council recently [barred] data brokers from selling sensitive personal data. … So the legal actions undertaken by Biden across the board are restructuring how data brokers operate and how ad markets work.

Lest we forget, we’ve been here before. Speaking of gay bars, hn_acker remembers another Chinese-owned app the U.S. forced to sell up:

After the forced sale of Grindr, the US should’ve passed a privacy law to ban nonconsensual collection of personal data by first party services and ban nonconsensual distribution of personal data by first party services to third parties (including both non-goverment parties and government parties) and from those third parties to other third parties.

Anyway, I’m not entirely convinced that the way the US government forced the Grindr sale passed the First Amendment. [But] national security can override the First Amendment.

How do we fix the underlying privacy and misinformation problems? Here’s Known Nutter:

The underlying problem is that many, many people stupidly post their personal information to these platforms and rely on [the] echo chamber. The underlying problem is that people are idiots.

Addressing this phenomenon requires a multifaceted approach that promotes media literacy, encourages diversity of thought, fosters empathy and understanding across group boundaries, and restores trust in rational discourse and evidence-based decision-making. But I’m not holding my breath.

Sauce for the goose? Have a gander at Drum’s comment:

The US is at least right about one thing: China would never allow a foreign company … to have so much relative influence in the culture … of a couple generations worth of people.

I’d be really curious to see what went on internally in pushing this ban to fruition. I could believe both that somebody has been convinced that TikTok is a national security issue (whether it is or isn’t), but I could also see Meta and Google’s hands in this: They have an astronomical amount of upside here to a ban.

ELI5? bufferout cuts to the chase:

TikTok is effectively controlled by a … hostile power, though. One that has the nous to ban foreign social media from their own shores.

Meanwhile, polesaw thinks it’s about time:

I, for one, am excited to see the U.S. finally gain the freedom to ban services our government doesn’t like: A freedom the people of China have enjoyed for so many years.

And Finally:

Prof. Bill eschews “lines on maps” for a moment

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Previously in And Finally


You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi, @richij or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. Past per­formance is no guarantee of future results. Do not stare into laser with remaining eye. E&OE. 30.

Image sauce: World Economic Forum (cc:by-nc-sa; leveled and cropped)

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