Recall that TikTok, a social medium heavily favored by our children, is wholly owned by ByteDance. Recall further, that ByteDance is domiciled inside the Peoples Republic of China. Finally, recall that the PRC’s 2017 national security law requires every PRC-domiciled company to collect and deliver to that nation’s intelligence community any information that community requests. A bonus memory: TikTok’s executive team has been at pains to insist that, in the United States, they operate independently of all of that.
Against that backdrop, there’s this:
Since the start of the year, a string of high-level executives have transferred from ByteDance to TikTok, taking on some of the top jobs in the popular video-sharing app’s moneymaking operations. Some moved to the US from ByteDance’s Beijing headquarters.
That’s not independence. Nor does it matter what top jobs, in particular, ByteDance’s transferred executives assume in TikTok. They work for ByteDance, which operates at the behest of the PRC government. Their presence at the top of TikTok only tightens that control.
Bottom line: it doesn’t matter how much gussying up ByteDance or TikTok executives do in their attempts to deny Peoples Republic of China control of TikTok; the PRC’s intelligence community can command TikTok to obtain and deliver any information regarding TikTok’s users that the intel community wants.
It’s past time the Federal government bans TikTok from any and all operations inside the US. Standing in the way of that are too many Congressmen and Senators, of both parties, who have taken “donations” from folks like Jeff Yass, who through his Susquehanna International Group owns a big stake in ByteDance, [and he] has also worked to fend off a US ban through organizations like Club for Growth. Among those…donees…are
- Senator Rand Paul (R, KY), who received through a Paul-supporting PAC, $3 million
- Congressman Thomas Massie (R, KY), who has received $32,200 directly from Yass, his wife, and via a Massie-supporting PAC
- Other [carefully unnamed] Republicans in Congress, including at least five others besides Paul and Massie, who received financial support from Club for Growth and have objected to legislation targeting TikTok.
Yass has rationalized his antipathy to banning TikTok with this:
TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe.
Aside from moving to protect his investment in the PRC-controlled ByteDance, it appears that part of everything I believe includes the right of the Peoples Republic of China to spy on our children. Banning TikTok has nothing to do with interfering with free speech (or innovation, come to that). Banning TikTok would ban a tool used by the PRC against our children and our national security, to the extent it’s used by government officials at any level of our hierarchy or by business executives anywhere. Content, speech, all of that, could and would continue apace, completely unhindered, on any of the plethora of other social medium platforms.
Ban TikTok. No further delays.