Well, he said he was going to do it during comments he made during his flight back from Florida yesterday. Between the aggressive stance we’ve been taking in the western Pacific and sanctions on certain Chinese officials and companies, cutting off access to one of China’s data-burrowing channels probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Of course, given how many people have seemingly become addicted to the app, the White House will have to do a far better job in explaining why this move is necessary or there are going to be a lot of aspiring internet influencers out there on social media ripping the President a new one. (Associated Press)
President Donald Trump says he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban Chinese-owned video app TikTok from the United States.
Trump made the announcement to reporters Friday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.
“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump said.
U.S. lawmakers have raised intelligence and privacy concerns about the company’s ownership. The company has denied allegations that it shares user data with the Chinese government.
Communicating the rationale for an action that may be unpopular isn’t exactly on-brand for Trump’s White House, but it’s still going to need to be done. As far as shutting down Tik Tok in the United States, I certainly hope that Trump carries through on this threat. India already shut it down for precisely the same reasons that we need to be concerned. The app is yet another “free” popular service that mysteriously tracks all manner of user data, supposedly doing so even if you set the privacy options to the maximum. And it’s not keeping the data locally, either. When you’re online it’s shipping all of those ones and zeros back into the cloud. The idea that the information isn’t winding up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party is laughable in the opinion of most analysts.
This is far from the first instance we’ve seen of the Chinese using cutting-edge devices or applications that spread across the world to capture and store data. Data analysts were raising the alarm years ago over the way that Chinese devices were embedded in the Internet of Things so extensively that they could probably shut the entire system down with one flick of a switch in Beijing. We also recently learned that the Chinese have completed testing on highly mobile “hunter” satellites that could disable our GPS system while keeping their own GPS functions intact using new, hardened satellites.
All of these events point to a larger failure on the part of the United States and the west to anticipate and deal with China’s true motivations and methods. Just yesterday I was listening to a discussion on a podcast where the hosts were talking about the absurdity of what they called America’s “Pokemon diplomacy” theory regarding the CCP dating back to the Clinton administration. Back then the thinking was that if we just engaged in enough trade and economic interactions with China, the would eventually just “evolve” (like a Pokemon) into a capitalism-loving democracy.
But that was never the intent of the CCP. They skillfully mix truth and lies when trying to manipulate global opinions about them, using either just as smoothly and easily as needs dictate. They keep insisting that they only want peace and prosperity for everyone but they are clearly positioning themselves to be a global superpower in a way the world hasn’t seen before. Rather than trying to keep up with the United States in building warship and fighter jets, they’re fighting in cyberspace and taking a daunting lead.
When you think about how dependent we are on GPS and satellite data these days, the threat posed by the CCP is alarming. In the private sector, everything from navigation to communications and power distribution relies on those data networks. Our most advanced military systems reportedly are similarly tied into the cloud. In a worst-case scenario, China could potentially knock everything off-line and effectively win World War 3 without needing to kick off an EMP or even fire a shot.
Banning Tik Tok might not make much of a dent in those efforts considering what a huge head start they have. But it would at least send a clear message that the world is on to what they’ve been up to and is willing to fight back.