Great article. Do you think the Chinese government would approve a sale?

Expand full comment

As always a big fan of your work, but not as convinced by this piece.

First I am not convinced by the stated risks. The actual existing risks are around data leaks, and although important they are not a serious Nat Sec risk. Not only is the data from Tiktok not important (videos of people doing dances? Name and birthdates?) but the US has more than enough holes of their own to make this data irrelevant (Equifax and the OPM hack).

The other potential risk around influence operations seems overstated. Anything large will be noticed quickly, anything small will (almost by definition) have a small effect. You make this point yourself where you say they could only influence the conversation on political topics not part of mainstream US conversation.

Note even if I’m wrong policy can be changed quickly to ban TikTok, like in India. Why go hard before any risk, and when the risks seem low?

The second point of disagreement is you are more bearish on mitigation than I think is warranted. Although anecdotal I know in Singapore there is a LOT of government oversight and control over TikToks algorithm within the country. It is definitely possible, and it looks like the US is not willing to look internationally at working compromises. (Apologies for my lack of detailed knowledge on this)

I wonder if this approach is due to the US government feeling hamstrung by the 1A. Since they aren’t allowed to control speech of foreign entities they need to take extreme measures?

In these times of heightened stress finding ways to work with important Chinese companies and institutions is important. The US seems to be upping the ante in every domain (chips, militarily, Taiwan etc.), and every avenue for cooperation needs to be fought for.

Expand full comment