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How Tiktok wants to save its US business

How Tiktok wants to save its US business

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TikTok wants to save its US business. © Stanislav Kogiku / IMAGO

Chinese video platform Tiktok has been struggling with much criticism in the US — and for survival. Does the unprecedented Texas project offer a way out for all involved? In Germany, too, internet experts are now warning about data misuse and government propaganda by Tiktok and its parent company, Bytedance.

This article lies IPPEN. MEDIA As part of the collaboration with China. Table Professional Briefing Before – posted it for the first time China on May 17, 2023.

Ex-cybercriminal Dirk Behrink has been waiting for this opportunity his entire career. But until his retirement, the former chief inspector found direct hearing in German politics for his concerns. A few weeks earlier, Behrencke had been invited to the Children’s Committee of the Family Committee of the German Bundestag. The six-member body represents the interests of children and young people in Parliament.

Behringe informed parliamentarians about the digital dangers of minors. He explicitly warned against using the Chinese video platform Tiktok, similar to Education Minister Bettina Stark-Witzinger (FDP). “There are two reasons for my concern: data security and publicity,” the 62-year-old says in an interview with Table.Media. “If I combine my professional knowledge with the prevailing political background in China – I come to the conclusion that we should not use Tiktok.”

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USA: Montana enacts law on potential Tiktok ban

A former investigator warns: Personal and biometric data, motion profiles and voice colors fall into the hands of an authoritarian government through the use of Tiktok. American companies have similar data hoards. However, its entrenchment in rule-of-law democracies is a control tool that simply prevents the government from accessing this data.

In the US, the discussion about Tiktok has been very intense for a long time. In mid-April, the general manager of the United States, Xu Ziqiu, had to answer questions in front of the US Congress. Questions related to national security issues and TikTok’s relations with China. Xu, who is from Singapore, was unable to make it clear. “Nothing you’ve said so far has calmed me,” said US Democrat Lisa Rochester. “Honestly, your statements raised more questions.”
The US state of Montana has already passed a law that would allow Tiktok to be banned. It is not certain whether such a ban would hold up in court. However, this possibility has been swirling around the US branch of Bytedance in Beijing for months.

Texas Project: Cessation of core technology sectors to Oracle

In 2022, Tiktok has moved nearly six billion US dollars through advertising in the US, so it’s profitable for the group. Therefore, Tiktok is making extensive concessions to the US authorities. The operators seem willing to cede control of the app’s content and data to Americans. Tiktok will reportedly allow authorities to set up a management team, hand over core parts of its technology to US software maker Oracle and release algorithms for independent testing.

This plan was called “Project Texas” because Oracle was based there. This was reported by the Cyberscoop web portal. The idea for Project Texas came from the platform itself. For Sam Sachs of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, this is “a serious effort to address the concerns of the US government.” “The US government will have ultimate oversight and oversight of compliance with the agreements,” the website said.

Tiktok: Allegations of former employees

The US government fears that the Chinese government has ideological influence over the nearly 80 million users in the US. Because Tiktok’s algorithm generates content suggestions for its users not just based on their own preferences and those of their respective contacts – but instead searches their entire library of uploaded videos. This makes it possible to present any content to the user. Chinese soft power. However, censorship can also lead to censorship and blocked search terms.

Tiktok wrongly sees itself in the gutter. She must now defend herself against accusations from within. The former head of engineering for the US business accuses parent company ByteDance of serving as a “propaganda tool” for the Chinese government. For example, Tiktok incited “Japanese hatred” and restricted content supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The former employee also confirmed that the Chinese authorities had access to all of the company’s data from the United States.

The statement raised concerns from US authorities that TikTok is providing the Chinese government with a large trove of personal data on US citizens, which is being fed into a carefully monitored system. China is using its technology to crack down on critics around the world.

US copy protected in China

Bytedance announced access to data from users from the rest of the world in early December. Tiktok defended the decision as a “definite necessity” for employees in China to do their jobs. For example, the transfer is in line with the European Data Protection Regulation.

The crux of the matter: Chinese companies in the People’s Republic of China are obliged by law to cooperate with the authorities. If the authorities demand the data, the company has to bow. “Even the European data protection regulation is of no use here. We are dealing with an authoritarian state that is not denied access by law,” says cyber investigator Behrnecke.

With Project Texas, all operations related to national security in the United States can be transferred to the separate business unit. The new organization will have a board of directors that will need to be approved by CFIUS. So the US version of the app will be completely protected from the Chinese owners. (Marcel Gerzana)