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America’s hypocritical debate over TikTok

Chinese platform TikTok has been very controversial in the US. He just has it The US Congress banned its members and staffTo use the video platform on service devices. The ban also applies to members of the US military and has so far been limited to a few states. Later it will be extended to all civil servants at the federal level.

Three arguments against TikTok

There are three main arguments against TikTok:

Possible Misinformation: Chinese group Bite Dance is backstage. It is not dependent on the Chinese government, and there are fears that ByteDance could use its opaque algorithmic decision-making systems to spread disinformation.

Who has access to which data:
Even when Donald Trump was the President of the United States, Tiktok was banned in the US. The reason is the fear that Chinese security authorities could access the data of all US users with the help of Byte Dance. How do such data allow for detailed conclusions? Current allegations from various American media prove: Accordingly, TikTok is said to have specifically evaluated the metadata of American journalists. With the help of IP addresses and location data, the company wanted to identify potential encounters with whistleblowers. The group apparently fears internal leaks and uses its private data retention.

TikTok is one Collaborated with American group Oracle and intends to run its offerings on US servers in the medium term. By doing so, it wants to give the impression that its US users’ data is safe.

Geopolitical dominance: For the past 15 years, American platforms have dominated the social media world. TikTok is the first competitor to meet Instagram, Facebook and YouTube on equal footing – and will soon overtake them in terms of usage and relevance. It also has implications for foreign policy.

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We can assume that the US government – and not just in crisis situations – can analyze with great precision who is communicating where, how and what by accessing the sites, thus having a global information advantage. In essence, however, it is about protecting the dominance of one’s own platforms over China’s rival.

The conflict from a European perspective

From a European point of view, the American debate is very interesting – and at the same time hypocritical. As US sets standards for TikTok, Facebook and Co. – Yes, we have to set them up.

Facebook and Co. The debate over misinformation in is much older than the surrounding Cambridge Analytica. However, a case in the spring of 2018 showed how easy it was for the platforms to manipulate their active users. Mechanisms that serve to create profiles and ultimately display personalized ads – the true business model of social networks – invite this kind of manipulation. Lack of transparency in this respect is one problem, lack of democratic control options is another. And the biggest problem is the business model.

Since Snowden revealed, FISA Court And PRISM. Since then, US companies have tried to comply with the GDPR by storing data on their subsidiaries’ servers in the EU. However, the US government has a different legal opinion and goes with it Cloud Law It still assumes that US law will also take precedence in the case of these European subsidiaries.

So the decisive question is not which data centers in the world the data is located in, but who has access to it. And from a European perspective, that means looking at America or China. And in case of doubt, the respective secret services can access all our data – because in their eyes our data is illegal. The European Court of Justice sees it the same way, and it’s the reason Max Schrems has repeatedly won against data transfer agreements between the US and the EU.

Sites must be controlled

Of course, ByteDance’s handling of data is not unique. US companies are also using it User data to identify potential whistleblowers in your own company or organization Conduct their own information campaigns. But the current debate in America illustrates how we should discuss the power of platforms.

I don’t use TikTok, but the app is interesting for its contribution to remix culture. However, I can certainly understand most of the arguments being made against TikTok. And our statement at netzpolitik.org He confirmed me in this, you don’t have to follow every trend. I know this sounds a bit sloppy as I am a public person using some of the US site’s offerings. But I hope we can make it together Alternatives towards common good should be strengthened.

However, in my view, it is most important that these institutions are subject to strict regulation and control. This year, new rules for platform regulation apply for the first time at EU level. TikTok clearly meets the criteria of a “gatekeeper”. Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Very Large Floor (VLOP) criteria Digital Services Act.

It will therefore be exciting to see whether the European Commission can set up and operate a well-functioning supervisory body in the coming years. It’s Facebook and Co. And the same applies to ByteDance.