Biden Repeating Trump’s Mistakes – Here’s Why The U.S. Cannot Ban TikTok Like Huawei

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Apr 16 2023
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Montana has become the first U.S. state to ban TikTok on all personal devices over security concerns. The bill, known as SB419, was passed by a vote of 54 to 43. Essentially, app stores like Apple Store and Google’s Play Store cannot offer TikTok. Violations carry  a penalty of up to US$10,000 per day, but only applicable to companies rather than individual users.


However, the law does not forbid those who already have the popular Chinese app from using it. This means as long as the app stores do not take down the app, Americans can  freely download it. And good luck asking users to prove they had TikTok before the law comes into effect. Besides, anyone can use VPN to download the app, not to mention the law is being challenged.


NetChoice, a technology industry group, has condemned the SB419 law for violating the U.S. constitutional prohibition against so-called “bills of attainder,” or legislation that seeks to punish a person without trial. The Montana legislature sets a dangerous precedent that the government can ban any business it doesn’t like without clear evidence of wrongdoing.

Keep TikTok - Americans Defending TikTok App

So, how is America any different from China, the so-called communist country practicing autocracy which the U.S. has been comparing to the Western’s superior democracy and freedom of speech? What happens to the U.S. Constitution that forbids lawmakers from passing laws to criminalize a specific individual or business? Doesn’t the U.S. recognize human rights anymore?


In March, U.S. President Biden told ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, that the Chinese company faces a potential federal ban if it does not divest its ownership in the app. Washington argues, like a broken record, that information gathered by the app could be used to benefit Chinese intelligence or propaganda campaigns. But the U.S. could not prove it.


So far, there is “no public evidence” the Chinese government has actually accessed the personal information of TikTok’s U.S. users or used that data to influence them. It appears the U.S. was trying to destroy TikTok because of jealousy more than due to national security threat. And Washington wanted to take over (or rather rob) the app by force due to its popularity.

TikTok - USA vs China

Accusing TikTok of serving as a Trojan horse for Beijing to manipulate – even control – America and steal sensitive data on U.S. citizens is just a lame excuse. Hilariously, Biden is repeating Trump’s mistake to ban the same app in July 2020, threatening to shut down the extremely popular social media app if it could not be sold by its Chinese owner Bytedance to a U.S. buyer.


For years, tech giants like Facebook and YouTube have been competing directly with TikTok. In April, 2020, thanks to Coronavirus lockdown, TikTok amassed over 2-billion downloads on Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, largely because people “trapped” at home wanted to keep themselves entertained. It came just 5 months after it surpassed 1.5 billion downloads.


It means on average, there were 100-million downloads every month leading to the 2-billion milestone. It became the first app after WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger to break past the 2-billion downloads since 2014. As TikTok’s popularity skyrockets, so does its revenue. Users spent a whopping US$456.7 million when it hit a 2-billion downloads, up from US$175 million when it hit 1.5-billion downloads.

ByteDance TikTok Founder - Zhang Yiming

Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, ByteDance reportedly had a private valuation of between US$105 billion and US$110 billion in May 2020, making it the most valuable start-up in the world. One Bloomberg analyst even speculated that it could be worth up to US$180 billion in an IPO (initial public offering). The owner of TikTok made a net profit of US$3 billion in 2019 alone.


TikTok in America has seen its users exploded from 100 million monthly active users back in 2020 to 150 million today. Worldwide, it has 1.05 billion active users spread across 154 countries. After Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence firm G42 acquired a US$100 million stake in ByteDance last month (March), the valuation of the Chinese unlisted owner of TikTok skyrockets to US$220 billion.


Clearly, TikTok is a goldmine. So, when President Trump – aboard the Air Force One – signed an Executive Order on August 2020 to ban TikTok in the United States, it was immediately condemned. Chinese media slammed the Americans, calling the “forced sale” of TikTok as “theft” and labelled the U.S. as nothing but a “rogue country”.

Trump Bans TikTok 

Microsoft suddenly emerged and announced it was exploring an acquisition for TikTok’s American business. After a phone conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Trump, the “American company” was given the  green light to reach a deal by September 15, 2020. China Daily mocked the U.S. for “stealing Chinese technology”.


Global Times had even run a headline that insults the U.S. – “Banning TikTok reflects Washington’s cowardice.” The Chinese tabloid told readers why Trump decided to ban the TikTok app, but at the same time shamelessly allowed Microsoft to acquire the popular Chinese app – because TikTok was a threat to American technology firms (just like Huawei).


The scope of the purchase included TikTok operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But the plan to split TikTok so that Microsoft controls operations in those countries was a tricky business because it may need to rebuild new infrastructure such as network and servers, not to mention databases and separation of users, all of which could break the algorithm and ecosystem of TikTok.

TikTok - ByteDance Core Algorithm

Eventually, ByteDance announced it won’t sell to either Microsoft or Oracle, let alone give away the source code of the video platform to any American buyers. The best part was when Trump demanded a cut – “key money” – of the TikTok-Microsoft deal. Nicholas Klein, a lawyer at DLA Piper, said generally “the government doesn’t have the authority to take a cut of a private deal”.


Charlotte Jee, a reporter at MIT Technology Review, said Trump’s request for money from the deal, as if it was a real estate deal, demonstrates Mafia-like behaviour. The very fact that the U.S. president had tried to solicit “commission” from a private deal was the clearest proof that the crackdown on TikTok has nothing to do with national security at all.


Donald Trump wanted to kill TikTok largely because he hated “Generation-Z” American teenagers, who love the app very much. For months, Sarah Cooper – a comedian who lips syncs to Trump’s speeches on TikTok – has gone viral. She has more than half a million followers on TikTok thanks to videos showing her lip-syncing the president’s speeches and adding her own context to hilarious effect.

Donald Trump Upset - Rally Tricked By TikTok and K-Pop

Trump’s threat to shut down TikTok – coincidentally – also came a month after a prank organized mainly through TikTok that saw the president humiliated in a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the days leading up to the June 20th rally, President Trump bragged that a jaw-dropping 1-million people had requested tickets to attend his event in Tulsa.


However, just over 6,000 people showed up, leaving the U.S. president furious. TikTok users sabotaged the rally by reserving thousands of tickets they never planned to use, and encouraged their friends to do the same. As Trump found out the hard way, TikTok isn’t just an app for silly videos. American teens use it to express themselves and connect with others.


On September 27, 2020, a preliminary injunction was issued by Judge Carl J. Nichols blocking enforcement of Trump’s executive order to ban TikTok. Again, in December 2020, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington said Trump overstepped his authority and therefore, blocked his administration’s attempt to ban TikTok in the country.

US President Joe Biden - Clueless

Biden and Congress’ latest plan to ban TikTok again, unless its owner sells it, is yet another silly repeat of Trump’s failed crusade to control the app. Worse, the Biden administration will most likely be mocked and laughed in the U.S. court. It’s already bad that ByteDance has tons of money, allowing the company to hire any army of lawyers to fight the government.


The biggest reason why the White House will lose again is because the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment – guaranteeing free speech. While Chinese haters have compared the successful ban on Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei with the efforts to ban TikTok, they have conveniently forgotten the difference between both companies.


The ban on Huawei had nothing to do with freedom of speech, but merely affected revenues of American companies to the tune of US$11 billion losses annually. Most people buy Apple iPhone or Samsung smartphone, not Huawei phone. In fact, the idea of banning TikTok, tool to express free speech, has prompted fears of a political backlash from Americans.

United States - Freedom of Speech

The Chinese video-sharing social networking giant has also hired battalions of lobbyists since its legal battle with Trump, and they have experience how to fight Biden. To make matters worse, TikTok today is bigger, more popular and more valuable. American companies forced to acquire TikTok could face another problem – “antitrust law”.


Indeed, the engine or the algorithm is the reason why Microsoft, Oracle, WalMart, Twitter, Netflix and even Triller, a rival app, wanted to buy TikTok previously. But according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) – “The car can be sold, but not the engine.” Even if ByteDance wants to sell TikTok’s algorithm, it can’t because an approval from Beijing is needed before Chinese companies can export their technologies.

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