Stumbling block: the battle over WeChat


A new battle is shaping up in the legal wrangles around. Social Media APPS operating in. America. The trump administration's attempt to block we chat and Tiktok from American APP. Stores was overturned by a federal judge on Sunday. Yesterday, America's Commerce Department said it would appeal. The wildly popular video sharing Tiktok has been the subject of jockeying from American firms for ownership after President Donald Trump said he would ban it unless CEOS was agreed. It can't be controlled for security reasons by China too big too. Invasive and it can't be and here's the deal I don't mind if whether it's Microsoft or somebody else a big company secure company, very, very American company by it. That seemed to be solved on Saturday when he approved a deal involving Oracle and Walmart. But that still left, we chat a platform with a huge following in China and among the Chinese diaspora if you as battling TV use of which had that would ask. For examples, I can use the. In. The US Li Tang is Chinese but lives in New York Bats. The hub was blocking China's. Savings so The government binding dvd from using the reach hats not means my connection with China is totally being cut off. The administration's wish to block it entirely now lies with the courts, but that battle will be very different from the one over Tiktok. This was going to cripple these we just in America for about three and a half million Chinese Americans who the majority of its users and the California judge has sort of paused this in order to examine. Around freedom of speech in doing this, how Hudson is the economists Asia Technology correspondent. The ruling kind of acknowledges that while there may be national security questions, it doesn't appear immediately that Aban is the only way to deal with those questions and the ban does appear to impinge upon the freedom of speech of those Chinese Americans, and so it's kind of a we're gonNA take a moment here in to check how legal this is and that makes sense because nothing like this has ever happened before. So in in what way What what are the rights that are that are under threat here? Well, it's pretty broad brush. We shot is kind of everything up and both in mainland China and and in America people, use it, use it for loads of different things they use to send money to their families. They use it obviously to communicate to the most obvious analog. There is something like what's up but also has personal finances. It has news it's kind of like. A little internet in a box and for a lot of people that's the whole Internet, and so that's why cutting it off is such a risky thing and yet the fact that it's sort of all of the Internet in a single APP is particularly important in China where not only are other services. Particularly Western services blocked Yukon download them from APP stores in China, things like twitter and facebook and what's up, but the communication on we. Chat itself is censored according to the Chinese government sort of prescriptions and so in a way, this freedom of speech argument is actually a question of whose freedom of speech you know do we want Americans to be free from Chinese censorship or do we want them to be free to use a service that they want to use? It's a it's a difficult question and so on. What grounds is the trump administration trying to ban it. Well, the stated reasoning is that we chat presents a national security risk to America and to American people. As with Tiktok the idea is that data about American sort of intimate data communication with their families. Businesses can be harvested through we chat and sent back to the Chinese government for various purposes. The other concern is that we got sensors conversations on its APP and both of these have grounds. In fact there there's research from the group. Called the citizen's lobby in Toronto which does showed that we chat is censoring various kinds of communication, not just in mainland China but all around the world for its extra China, which users. But there's a more skeptical angle to this on the government's motivation, which is that being tough on China looks good for trump in the run-up to an election and it puts Joe Biden in a corner to sort of force him to take position on closeness with China. To how does the discussion around we chat fit into the the rather longer running one about Tiktok the difference between the two of them is that TIKTOK has American investors tiktok has its roots in the acquisition of an American company, and so that gives America sort of jurisdiction over to talk because America's always had control over investment in the United States, and that's the kind of starting point for the examination of Tiktok and the administration's talk on talk we chat doesn't have that. We chat doesn't have any American acquisitions that formed it. It's a much older piece of technology and it's much more sort of purely Chinese. So the only way that the administration has to attack tiktok is through this very unusual executive order that resulted in a list of transactions from the Department of Commerce. That again important to remember doesn't have a precedent and so you know when we're looking at what this the results of this temporary stay from the judge in California will be. It's very hard to say because nothing like this is awesome before. So in in that regard, the long run outcome of this won't be the kind of division and selling jockeying that we've seen about Tiktok no, there's no latitude for that. I mean the fact is as well that we chats three point five, million users in America doesn't represent like gigantic sort of social media growth opportunity that tiktok one, hundred, million users, a brand new APP that you know all the kids. Are On that's a much more exciting proposition for companies like Oracle at Walmart that are you know supposed to be taking stakes in? TIKTOK. But the other way in which these two things are joined up is in the American government's increasing efforts to control the kinds of things that happened on the Internet and this isn't just about versus China America versus China is kind of catalyzing a much much bigger discussion about what happens online and who gets to be in charge of that. But all of this seems to be getting away from the you know free on splintered on almost entirely unregulated Internet that America pioneered. Yeah. It undeniably is is just a factual observation to say that this source of activity very top down very directly political. You know trumped basically in charge of these things and and a group of bliscoll allies starts to look. A lot like the way that China does business online and I guess that's not necessarily a problem at Priori. But it's definitely a change in the way that America does its business and it is important to remember that it's not like America. Star should this to China has not allowed loads of different American services in for a very long time and you know one. Potential. Outcome of this is that you'll see the people who really need these services using them sort of illicitly. So you start to get a kind of grey market for digital services where your ability to route around the controls that your government puts on. You dictate your ability to access the services you need, and that's probably a bad thing. Hell, thanks very much for your time. Thank you Jason.

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