TikTok for Tat – Harris Bricken Sliwoski LLP

TikTok has been within the information lots recently, particularly since its CEO Shou Zi Chew’s contentious testimony earlier than the U.S. Home Committee on Vitality & Commerce. Individuals are responding by asking totally different questions. Some, presumably together with most of those that take pleasure in, and maybe even create, TikTok content material, ask, “Why are we whipping ourselves right into a hysteria to scapegoat TikTok?” Others, many pushed by considerations over attainable entry to TikTok information by the Chinese language authorities, but additionally nervous in regards to the potential negative results of TikTok use, query, “Why can’t we simply ban TikTok?”And quite a lot of them, particularly these on the older facet, surprise, “What Is TikTok?”

When discussing current or attainable TikTok bans, we should distinguish between employer-specific prohibitions affecting solely the units issued by the employer in query and a wider ban that will stop anybody from utilizing the TikTap app within the nation. The primary kind of restriction appears completely cheap, and actually many such limits are already in place, each in the private and non-private sectors, each in america and in lots of different nations all over the world. And such restrictions are cheap not simply on information safety grounds. Employer-issued telephones and units are, usually talking, work instruments, and there are few of us who must entry TikTok for work functions. If Georgia and Wisconsin state workers who’ve work telephones actually need to know what Oriana Colutta has in her bag, they need to get their very own cellphone (or ask their children to indicate them).

Stopping common residents from utilizing TikTok is one other matter altogether. Individuals needs to be involved in regards to the entry totally different events should their private info, however it doesn’t observe that the federal government must, or ought to, shield them in opposition to their very own carelessness. A blanket ban by the federal authorities on TikTok would have severe implications for civil liberties and set up a harmful precedent. It’s in opposition to the hazards of emboldening censorious authorities actors that the dangers posed by TikTok have to be weighted.

Simply how a lot of a menace TikTok presents is an open query, which we received’t delve into right here. However let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that the Chinese language authorities do have, or may receive, entry to info collected by TikTok on its American customers. The chance of that taking place ought to actually give everybody some pause, however then once more the form of info on Individuals held by TikTok data is already, and possibly extra readily, out there to Chinese language authorities from different sources.

Take Individuals who fly on Chinese language carriers, both to China or to a different nation altering planes in China. These carriers receive Individuals’ passport and bank card particulars earlier than issuing a ticket. Does anybody suppose that, say, Air China wouldn’t, if ordered to by the CCP, hand over that info to a Chinese language safety company? The identical goes for Individuals who place orders from Chinese language producers through Alibaba or who purchase instantly from Chinese language sites. Certainly, it’s fairly seemingly the CCP already has prepared entry to this info with out having to order anybody to provide it to them, and even ask.

One may argue that the examples above contain Individuals who willingly selected to have interaction with Chinese language entities, similar to Air China. But by now most Individuals who learn about TikTok additionally learn about its ties to China. It’s exhausting to argue that the voluntary use of TikTok is any totally different from shopping for an Air China ticket, putting an order for sneakers from a manufacturing unit in Fujian, or shopping for from a Chinese language-owned web site. Nobody forces the Individuals in query to have interaction in any of those interactions, together with TikTok use.

The true problem with TikTok is the shortage of reciprocity that permits it to be freely utilized in america, whereas a number of the hottest American social media apps and web sites are usually not legally or freely accessible in China. Reciprocity needs to be one of many bedrocks of worldwide relations, however it’s typically lacking from the equation on the subject of China, largely as a result of China (for apparent causes) fully ignores this problem. What occurs with TikTok is however considered one of many examples. Evidently the true query Individuals needs to be asking is, if Google, Fb and the New York Instances can’t be freely accessed in China, why ought to TikTok be out there in america? Appears unfair. Convince us otherwise.