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TikTok or Not


TikTok has been accused of collecting data on Americans and sending it to the Chinese government. China, contrarily, denounces the U.S. as intending to block Chinese technology in order to protect American companies. As President Trump demands a cut and Microsoft seeks to purchase the popular Chinese app of TiTok, China threatens to retaliate. Tension between the two countries arises; many questions concerning cybersecurity and internet use/standards remain.

Trump demands the U.S. should get a “substantial portion” of the purchase price of the TikTok's US unit from a sale of TikTok to an American company. He claims that he will ban the app, which is owned by China's ByteDance, if there is no sale by September 15, 2020: "The United States should get a very large percentage of that price, because we're making it possible." (TikTok's has 80 million active American users.) Trump’s request for payment to the US Treasury complicates the deal as legal experts view his proposal as unorthodox and in need of regulatory approval. Some say this cut is just a payback for the US and its companies, claiming China has stolen intellectual property from them. The situation gets complicated as economy, politics, foreign policies, principles of democracy, and national security all become mixed in the picture.

In addition to TikTok's US business, Microsoft is also negotiating to buy its operations in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In the event that the deal does not happen, Trump’s ban on TikTok may start by having Apple and Google remove TikTok from their online platforms, in other words, by adding TikTok's owner ByteDance to a Commerce Department entity list, and banning US entities from working with it. An alternative may be to require U.S. internet service providers to block access to TikTok's servers. Either bought or banned, TikTok is encountering a serious crash with the U.S.

On the other hand, TikTok may very well preserve its most valuable assets, an effective algorithm and a pool of creators. Those assets are not easy to acquire or transport. TikTok’s core algorithm selects videos for the central feed users upon opening the app, called the “for you page” or FYP, developed by ByteDance’s Chinese engineers using a suite of shared software tools, “zhongtai,” or “central platform.” This golden goose is what makes TikTok so addictive and compelling. Now that goose is up for grabs, or not.

An open and global internet where data moves freely has been the belief of democracies, as opposed to China’s censorship. Now the Trump Administration seems to be following China’s autocratic measures and assuming that the only safe computer networks and data flows are within its own borders. That may induce a fallacy in which U.S. tech industry can simply cease to do business all over the world. That may also reveal problematic cybersecurity tactics.

To protect Americans’ data, the federal government is to define more rigorous standards to address data protection protocols and consequences of breaking relevant rules.

Will the TikTok sale happen by September 15? Will America’s cybersecurity law look more and more like China’s? Will storing data within a nation’s border provide solutions for data breaches or security issues? Do all the hullabaloos amount to mere gesticulations of politicians’ power play or nations’ inflated protectionism? We shall see.

TikTok抖音的跳动

美国指控TikTok收集其国人的数据,并将其发送给中国政府。中国则谴责美国有意封锁中国技术以保护美国公司。在美国微软公司试图购买此极为流行的中文应用程序TiTok之时,川普总统要求从中收到一笔款项,而中国则威胁进行报复。两国之间出现了紧张关系;关于网络安全和互联网使用/标准的许多问题更显棘手。

川普要求于美中TikTok的交易中获得其美国部门购买价格的“相当一部分金额”。他声称,如果在2020年9月15日截止、TikTok中国的ByteDance字节跳动母公司无法达成此销售案,他将禁止美国使用该应用程序:“美国应该获得该价格的很大一部分金额,因为美国人的采用是该程序风行的因素。” (TikTok拥有8000万的美国用户。)川普要求TikTok向美国财政部付款,使得此交易变得极为复杂,法律专家认为他的这项提议是非正统的,需要监管部门的批准。有人说,这一款项只是对美国及其公司的回报,声称中国窃取了美国许多的知识产权。随着经济、政治、外交政策、民主原则和国家安全议题的混杂,此交易局势变得复杂难解。

除了TikTok在美国的业务外,微软还正在谈判购买其在加拿大、澳大利亚和新西兰的业务。如果交易没有达成,特朗普对TikTok的禁令可能始于由Apple和Google从其在线平台上删除TikTok,换句话说,将TikTok的母公司ByteDance添加到商务部实体列表中,并禁止美国公司机构使用该程序。另外,川普也可能要求美国互联网服务提供商阻止用户登入TikTok的服务器。无论是被购买还是被禁止,TikTok与美国正显严重冲突。

另一方面,TikTok可能得以保留其最有价值的资产:有效的程序公式和创作家的数据库。这些资产是不容易收购或运输的。 TikTok的核心公式是由ByteDance的中国工程师使用一套共享软件工具(“中台”或“中央平台”)而设计的:用户专属页面或FYP提供选择性的吸引用户的内容。这只金鹅正是TikTok如此令人着迷和引人入胜的原因。现在那只鹅受到争抢,此资产是否真能转手还有待世人来观察。

与中国的审查制度相反,开放的、可自由移动数据的全球互联网一直是民主国家的信念。现在,川普政府似乎正在遵循中国的专制措施,并假设安全的网络和数据流都只能在本国的边界之内方能达成。这种假设的前提乃为谬误的景象:美国科技行业会在世界他国中停止营业;而此网络安全策略也让人质疑。

为了保护美国人的数据,联邦政府必须定义更严格的标准,以达成数据保护协议并明定违反相关规则的后果。

TikTok销售会在9月15日之前完成吗?美国的网络安全法会越来越像中国的专制法令吗?将数据存储在一个国家的境内是否能解决数据泄露或安全问题?所有的喧嚣都只是政治人物的权力游戏或国与国之间夸大的贸易保护主义的姿态吗?世人将拭目以待。

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