When people start dealing with it announcement from the U.S. Department of Commerce detailing how it plans, for reasons of national security, to shut down TikTok and WeChat – starting with app downloads and updates for the two, plus all WeChat services, on Sept. 20, with TikTok then with a shutdown of servers and services on Nov. 12 – the CEO of Instagram and the ACLU are among those speaking out against the move.
The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, wasted no time in taking to Twitter to criticize the announcement. Their particular flesh is the implication the move will have for American companies – like theirs – that have also built their businesses around operating across national borders.
In essence, if the United States begins to ban international companies from operating in the United States, then it will open the door for other countries to take the same approach with American companies.
Meanwhile, the ACLU it was frank in criticizing the announcement because of freedom of expression.
“This order violates the First Amendment rights of people in the United States by limiting their ability to communicate and conduct important transactions on both social media platforms,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project National Union of American Civil Liberties. today.
Shamsi added that, ironically, while the US government may cry out for national security, the blockade of application updates poses a security threat.
“The order also harms the privacy and security of millions of existing TikTok and WeChat users in the United States by blocking software updates, which can resolve vulnerabilities and make applications more secure. abuse of emergency powers by President Trump, Secretary Ross undermines our rights and our security.To truly address the confidentiality issues raised by social media platforms, Congress should implement a comprehensive surveillance reform and strong consumer data privacy legislation. ”
Vanessa Pappas, who is the CEO in charge of TikTok, also intervened to approve Mosseri’s words and publicly asked Facebook to join TikTok’s litigation against the US because of his moves.
“We agree that this kind of ban would be bad for the industry. We invite Facebook and Instagram to publicly join our challenge and support our litigation, ”he said he said in his own tweet in response to Mosseri, also retweeting the ACLU. (Interesting how Twitter becomes Switzerland in these stories, eh?) “This is a time to put aside our competition and focus on fundamental principles like freedom of expression and the legal process.”
The shuttering motion of these apps has been shrouded in an increasingly complex set of issues, and these two dissenting voices highlight not only part of the conflict between those issues, but the potential consequences and the detriment of acting based on them. on one issue over the other.
The Trump administration said the main reason it identified the application was to “safeguard U.S. national security” in the face of disastrous activity outside of China, where the owners of WeChat and TikTok , respectively Tencent and ByteDance, are based on:
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated the means and reasons to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States,” the State Department’s daily statement said. United States trade. “The bans announced today, combined, protect users in the United States by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”
In fact, it is difficult to know where the truth lies.
In the case of the ACLU and Mosseri’s comments, they highlight questions of principle but not necessarily precedent.
It’s not as if the United States will be the first country to take a nationalist approach to how to allow applications to work. Facebook and its stable app, as of now, are not able to operate in China without a VPN (and even with a VPN, things can get complicated). And freedom of speech is regularly ignored in a number of countries today.
But the U.S. has always been positioned as a standard bearer in both of these areas, and so, in addition to the personal interest that Instagram might have in defending more free market policies, it indicates a broader position of the market and the company that is eroded. .
The problem, of course, is a bit like an onion (a smelly onion, I would say), with well over a couple of layers around it, and with the larger branches of TikTok (with 100 million users in the United States). and huge in pop culture beyond even that) or WeChat (much smaller in the United States, but huge elsewhere and appreciated by those who use it).
The Trump administration has carefully chosen the issues to be addressed to give voters the assurance of Trump’s commitment to “Make America Big Again,” building examples of how it will help promote the interests of the United States and to bring down those who stand in its way. China has been a huge part of that image construction, positioning itself as an adversary in the industrial, defense and other fields. Identifying specific apps and how they could pose a security threat by sucking our data fits perfectly into that strategy.
But are they really security threats, or do they just do the same kind of infamous data ingesting that every social app does to work? Does the US banning them really mean that other countries, so far more in favor of a free market, will go online and adopt a similar approach? Will people really stop being able to express themselves?
These are questions that Trump has been forced to balance with his actions, and even if they weren’t problems before, they have become so so now.