On Thursday, Donald Trump issued two executive orders aimed at banning Tickcock and WeChat, stating that the US should take “aggressive action” against China-based social media platforms in the interest of national security.
The move would effectively require Tiktok and WeChat to close in the US or find new owners within 45 days. Trump claims that the apps are a security concern because they are located in China and thus threaten data requests from the Chinese government. Microsoft is already in talks to buy TikTok for billions.
But questions remain as to what this ban will look like and its effects. Here are the major concerns:
What exactly did Trump’s order say?
Trump’s executive order states that China’s app is “threatened by national security, foreign policy and the United States economy” and after 45 days the US with Tikatok’s parent company Bytdance Ltd. “by any Transaction “.
Extensive language leaves much to be interpreted: it can only prevent American advertisers from purchasing advertisements on the platform. According to the Washington Post, but a senior administration official suggested that downloading the app would also be considered a transaction.
Can Trump Really Ban Tiktok?
The short answer is no, a security manager at Lank Scout Lookout said.
“It would be impossible to actively remove TickTalk from every device in the United States,” he said. “It will be for Google, Apple and Microsoft, as the ancestors of the operating system, to enforce restrictions and ensure users to remove TikTok.”
He said those companies are unlikely to comply with such an order. For example, Apple has in the past adopted a stricter approach against allowing government or law enforcement to own devices, while Microsoft itself is negotiating to buy TikTok.
Even if it cannot remove the app from the devices, the Trump administration can create a regulatory environment for Tiktok to either fail the business or to allow an American company to get ahead of it. recedes – A threat that seems more imminent after Facebook launched its TechTalk lookalike on Monday.
Has this happened before?
TikTok was banned in India earlier this year. The app was not forcibly removed from the devices, as its parent company voluntarily removed it from the App Store in that country. It is unclear whether the company will do so in this case (Tickcock did not immediately respond to a request for comment).
Removing the app from the App Store can have additional negative effects, Shales said, because it creates a vacuum that can fill cybercriminal malware that resembles Tiktok but collects sensitive details from users.
Is Tiktok really dangerous?
Opinions on security issues around Tiktok vary widely. The main criticism of the app is that its parent company is based in China and thus it can share user data with the Chinese government, that it collects a large amount of user data, and that the app itself is not securely coded is.
While not all experts agree that Tiktok’s data practices are dangerous, the ban does little to address privacy concerns, said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.
“It is an abuse of emergency powers under the cover of national security,” Shamsi said. “Banning entire platforms harms the freedom to speak online and does nothing to solve the widespread problem of unfair government surveillance, including our government.”
The US government has largely tracked Americans through its phone data, most through a program led by the National Security Agency that was exposed by whistleblower and former employee Edward Snowden. Some analyzes suggest that Ticketcock does not collect more data than other technology companies in the US, such as Facebook.
How will people get around the ban?
Videos on TikTok show how to overcome the potential ban, receiving millions of likes and shares, but security experts say some of the methods promoted in those videos will not work.
Many claim that users can use a virtual private network (VPN), which works by routing user traffic through a computer node in a different country, revealing that the person’s device is no longer in the US Is not based. The VPN would only be effective if the ban was enforced on a device-by-device basis, rather the major tech companies removed the app from the App Store.
“If the ban was enforced by Internet service providers themselves, even the VPN solution would not work for Tiktok users, as the connection to the app’s resources would be completely blocked,” said Scales. “This is the case we saw after banning the app in India.”
Again, experts say that it is unlikely major technology companies will comply with such a ban. If so, users may be able to access TickTalk by “jailbreaking” their phones or modifying them, so that they can reach beyond the resources mandated by Apple. But doing so is putting yourself at risk for additional security risks.
What other effects will it have in the long term?
Advocates for profit and free speech are concerned that such a ban would have an impact on First Amendment rights in the US.
“Privacy and security concerns with such platforms are real, but we should be wary of setting an example that would give this president, and every future one, the power to intervene in the media’s reach of a broader, larger power Americans. ” Said Jamil Jafar, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
Even Tiktok contestants are against the ban. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said in an all-hands meeting with employees on Thursday that he was genuinely concerned a “teetalk ban” would set “a very bad long-term precedent” related to app censorship.