The US has always espoused a certain kind of exclusivist rhetoric. One POTUS sounds exactly like another when he says things like “America is back” or “America is already great” or “To be an American is a high privilege”. When the US has an agenda, it grows wings, dons a halo and makes it about the American people. Last month, US senators introduced a bill that will allow the Biden government to “regulate and even ban foreign-produced technology”, including TikTok, the short video app owned by Chinese technology firm ByteDance. One senator said at a press conference, “I’m particularly concerned about TikTok’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party, which repeatedly, repeatedly spies on American citizens.”
The senator may very well be correct. It cannot be for nothing that the UK, Canada, the European Union and Belgium have banned TikTok from government-issued devices in recent times. India banned TikTok long before any of them. TikTok boss Shou Chew, however, assured the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce that the “belief that TikTok’s corporate structure makes it beholden to the Chinese government or that it shares information about US users with the Chinese government… is emphatically untrue”. TikTok has more than 150 million monthly active users in the US, is available in over 150 countries and has over one billion users.
Facebook has 243.58 million monthly active users in the US and Twitter above 70 million monthly active users. There have been reports of Facebook data breaches in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018… Mark Zuckerberg continued to deny it till he couldn’t, and went so far as to apologise for what he called a “major breach of trust”. Not long ago, there was a report claiming that there was a major Twitter data leak compromising over 200 million users. Whatever the extent of outrage over these incidents, one does not recall baying for a ban of these apps within the US. Not even when it was being reported that Russia used major social media platforms in the US to influence the 2016 US presidential elections. China is a different story though. It has long taken off Facebook, Twitter, all things Google related, Yahoo, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, WhatsApp, all American apps. And now, the Biden administration is rallying for either a ban on TikTok or a sale of stakes by its Chinese owners.