Friday, August 14, 2020

The Tik Tok Farce

Trump spouts a lot of gibberish.  Can he really force the Chinese to sell TikTok?  No, and he can't make Mexico pay for a wall, either.   But there are real issues at stake.  Too bad Trump has to muck them up.

The whole Tik Tok thing is a farce.  Presidents cannot force foreign countries to sell their companies to American companies, nor can he take a "cut" for the Treasury as a "finder's fee".    Well, if he could do these things, it would mean a lot of capital flight from America.   Would you invest here, knowing that your company could be nationalized like in some Banana Republic?  Hell, no.

The real issue, lost in all this Trumpian Buffoonery is that China has banned all US-sourced Social media in its own country - Facebook, Twitter, et al., mostly because they cannot censor it  to their liking.   Make no mistake, though, Facebook will bend over backwards (and forwards) to meet the demands of petty dictators and autocrats, if it means they can make money.

So there is a bit of a quid pro quo here - why should we let a Chinese social media company - one with ties to the Communist Party - operate here?   What is disturbing is that personal information might be used to blackmail users in the future.   If this sounds far-fetched, listen on.

Some of the major "hook-up" sites are - or were - owned by the Chinese. Grindr, a site for gay men (and many closeted gay men) was owned by a Chinese company, until security concerns forced them to sell a 98% stake to a US investment firm.   The security concerns are ample.  Suppose, for example, a high-ranking government official or military officer was on one of these dating sites - behind his wife's back?   He posts compromising photos of himself, and perhaps even "hooks up" with a Chinese agent.

To avoid being outed at work or having his wife find out, perhaps the Chinese might request a few certain "documents" be sent to them.   It has been known to happen.  The sad thing is, in this day and age, people feel ashamed of sex, still, and can still be blackmailed.  So the government, back then, forced a sale of Grindr to some "American" investors, one of whom is Chinese and a founder of the Chinese search engine Baidu.   Problem solved!

It is interesting how the Chinese have jumped on this social media bandwagon, and gone so far with it - perhaps even poised to eclipse some US companies.  And maybe that is the real concern - because the US government has had some success in obtaining personal data from US social media companies, even if it requires a subpoena.   But an offshore company?  How do we get data from them, if they have no assets or offices in the US?

That is the real issue at stake - the ability of the US Government to pry into your social media accounts to see if you are pledging to ISIS or worse yet, the Democratic party.

But perhaps this is all a negotiating stance - to get the Chinese to open up their country to US-made social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.  Perhaps.   All I know is, this talk of a "finder's fee" is just nonsense - illegal nonsense.   And it is disturbing that Trump's nonsense gets more nonsensical by the day.

I mean, birther conspiracy theories, again?   Are Americans that dumb?   Don't answer that.

UPDATE 2022:  I found the above image while Googling "TikTok for sale" - and it is interesting.  You develop a "following" online and you can then sell or rent your account to others.  Even I get inquiries about "guest postings" from online bots.  In recent weeks there is talk of banning TikTok as they cull user data and.... do something with it.  I am not sure why the personal habits of 100 million clueless Americans are of vital interest to the Chinese or are, in fact, a State Secret.  But I guess it is a security threat, and if the gyrating "influencers" of TikTok went away, I would not shed a tear.