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The Takeaway


Since its debut and twenty seventeen, the Chinese APP tick tock has become one of the fastest growing social media tools with more than eight hundred, million active users. The APP lets users make short videos that are often shared across the Internet, but Tiktok isn't all fun games for months. Now, a lot of the attention about the APP has been focused on the national security concerns and the collection of user data, and as a result, the platform has been banned in India, by multiple branches of the US military and by Wells Fargo employees most recently however, president trump took aim at tiktok himself by threatening to ban the APP. We're looking at Tiktok we may be banning TIKTOK. We may be doing some other things, a couple of options, but a lot of things are happening. So we'll see what happens but we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respected dictum. Those remarks were before reports surfaced that Microsoft was pursuing a deal to buy TIKTOK in a press conference at the White House yesterday president trump claimed Microsoft or any other company would have to wait until September fifteen to acquire the APP and would be expected to give a percentage of the profit from the sale to the US Treasury. Joining me now is Graham Webster editor of digit China Project at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and a fellow at New America Graham thanks for being with us. Thanks for having me. And Cowan Rosenblatt is a youth and Internet cultural reporter for NBC, News. Dot Com callen thanks for being with us as well. Glad to, be here. Cowen who is the average tiktok user? The average tick tock user really is is a dynamic question because there is a huge range of different people who are using the APP but I'd say the most common person you're gonNA find is someone who is either at the tail end of high school or College who is definitely a solidly in generation the Gen Z. and he was using me APP mostly for fun to do dance challenges trends an engaged with communities that serve to their world. Graham. All of that sounds pretty basic I mean it doesn't sound like there's anything to be concerned about so far what type of data does tiktok collect from its users Graham? We'll TIKTOK is like a lot of social media companies these days It's using an AI driven or machine learning driven algorithm to figure out which content to to individual users. So to get this accomplished, they pay attention to obviously whatever you post that also you know what posts on your feed you look at how long you look at them where your device location is They also tried to track individual users like many apps do by looking at things like screen size and operating system and of course, they have a fair amount of information about your social graph, your your connections to friends and other people that you follow. And so what were some of the concerns around the data collection that way Graham given that it feels like there's a lot of, as you mentioned, other social media platforms and advertisers and the like that are tracking everything that we do already. Why? Why is Tiktok being highlighted here and banned in some of the institutions that we mentioned at the top Well, the basic reason is that tick tock is owned by a Chinese company named Bite Dance and they're a fairly new social media company. They had a breakout a few years ago in China with an APP called junior Tokyo that that is a you know an algorithm, IQ news feed and this is China's first big breakout internationally in terms of social media APPS and really getting take-up in in many different countries around the world not just the United States. So there's A concern that data collected by Tick Tock could end up in the hands of the Chinese company or the Chinese government and wild tick. Tock says that it stores all US user data in the US or in Singapore we don't really have a good way as a society right now to check that type of thing and to make sure that companies commit you when they commit to you know storing data and the Safeway making sure that they're actually doing that. Doesn't sound like we have a lot of that in the United States either though Graham. I mean, we have constant security breaches left and right Right. Well, the United States doesn't have a central data governance or data security or privacy Regulatory System the most prominent example of one globally as Europe, which has the general data protection regulation called the GDP are, and that governs things like when an apper services going to collect your personal information they have to gain certain types of consent and follow certain types of rules and there's also kind of limits the. Idea that if you collect data for a certain reason that you got consent for you shouldn't be able to use it for other reasons and that type of governance is just not that prominent in the US partially because the big US social media companies are not especially keen to have their practices heavily regulated they. They find GDP are in Europe to be burdensome and You know get in the way of making money. Kalland back in June president trump organized a rally in Tulsa Oklahoma and rumor has it that tiktok users promoted buying tickets for the event and didn't show up so that the event would be empty. What do we know about how that rubbed of the administration? So, what we know is it seemed to sort of frustrate the administration. Now, there's no evidence that the Tiktok users and K pop stands who are fans of Korean pop music that they had any impact on turnout. We are going through a global pandemic. There are a lot of factors going on right now. So it is really hard to know sort of what that impact was. But what we do know is it likely inflated expectations for turnout. The administration was planning to have a second rally after the main rally in Tulsa. which they then had to cancel, and so we think that it really messed with them. It was a it was a real genuine troll on the part of these tic TAC users against the president, and it really seemed to rub him the wrong way and there are lots of Tiktok users young first time voters who are telling me that when trump said, he wanted to ban this APP that was a retaliation for what they did the stunt they pulled the prank they pulled in Tulsa most what they think is happening. That's what they think is happening why there is no evidence that that's the president's line of thinking but that's what these eighteen to twenty two year olds are telling me that that's their beliefs. Cowan, we talked about The you know whether or not talk users actually had any effect on the trump rally in Tulsa back in June but more more directly here wondering if you're seeing any more political movement on the APP, whether it's a pro trump or pro biden or anti-trump anti, Biden has it started to move away from dance and song and move towards more political leaning so far. It can do both things at once actually. So there are still the dance trends. There are massive accounts that are just enjoying music on the APP but we see a lot of politics on Tiktok now maybe more than ever some young people are telling me they feel that because their home in quarantine and because politics ramping up nationally as we get closer to this election that they're seeing more and more politics in their feet, and what we're seeing is a not so much pro by content, but a lot of anti-trump content and I WANNA be clear. There is Republican Todd Democrat tiktok liberal Tick Tock conservative Tiktok. But what it appears to be is a lot of generation. Z.. Has a anti-trump sentiment and that does not mean they heavy pro biden sentiment. But things that we see our young people say, Hey, on this day, everyone go to president, trump's campaign store and put these products in your cart. But don't check out because allegedly that messes with their inventory or everyone on this day go to president trump's twitter account and report account, and let's see we can get a taken down. So we're still seeing these sort of organized movements sort of Troll, the president and a lot of discussion of politics but whether or not that is in in favor of vice, President Biden or in favor of president trump is sort of yet to be seen. Graham LE. Let's talk a little bit. But I mean, it sounds like tiktok users are for the most part having fun on the site sort of trying to do the things that Collina's talking about here but. On a more serious note, the trump administration has been trying to ban the APP. They're citing national security concerns, concerns over censorship by the Chinese government. Valid are any of those concerns really given what you know about China US politics Well I think it's you have to separate them out So the the concern about censorship I think is legitimate there was there was an example a little while ago where it looked like some of the censorship that they would do in China restricting conversations about things the Communist Party doesn't like discussed had bled over into the international product Now, Tiktok said that they were addressing that wasn't intended again, we don't really. Have a good way in the United States to check up on that and to kind of make sure that speech isn't being censored one way or the other the national security issue I think requires a lot more imagination Now, you know as was mentioned, the the military has has told service members to not use the APP and I think that makes a good amount a sense you know if if you're concerned about an APP Having links to a potential adversary There's all sorts of possibilities of ways that it could be exploited even just using location data of of service members or people who work in sensitive facilities. But if you don't work in sensitive facilities, if you're just sort of going around and and and doing the fun things and engaging in some of the political discourse that Cowan was mentioning you know there's not. A real big national security issue there a I will say that some people think that collecting the full aggregate totality of US Tiktok users could be used later in a analysis to try to do something, but it's really imaginative at this point whereas I think the censorship concerns a real and could be checked on and data privacy concerns are real but should be able to be checked on as well. What about the fact that we we just heard from Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group in the previous segment talking about how the United States is viewed internationally in terms of our response to the corona virus. But I did ask in also about his thoughts on what this Tiktok dust up between president trump and China what seemed to Be Rooted in and he said, you know this is also part of trump's sort of relationship with how he views China and Chinese technology he's gone after while way he's gone you know talked a lot about five G. technologies. So do you see that I mean? Do you see that as a pattern in how the president views technologies specifically that's coming out of China. Yeah I think the you know the trump administration's been. Pursuing a campaign of you know escalating what could be a new type of Cold War approach to China and a lot of it is wrapped up in technology and and I think the focus on Tiktok really makes the most sense. If you consider it a distraction from two things I is a distraction from actual problems with China you know the the trump administration got this phase one trade deal which didn't really get to the deep issues of subsidy and market access and intellectual property protection. And, on the other hand, it's distracting from the fact that a lot of these security concerns should apply across many apps. Why just tick Tock you know you're talking about including American made apps like facebook and twitter. Yeah I mean the concerns are different when the parent company is in China but there are really unaccountable data collection methods going on across ad networks and data brokers are building profiles of Americans and people in other countries that can be purchased just with money and you know it's not only add companies that by this data governments can get it to. Callan, as we sort of touched on this earlier. But of course, we I, say this all the time we're heading into one of the most consequential presedential elections in my lifetime at least social media is constantly changing is tiktok going to be a thing and twenty twenty and November, or is it going to be eclipse with something else or it'll change the? Will it change the election? Calvin what are your thoughts on that? I don't see Tiktok going away anytime soon, as long as the president allows it to operate in the United States I think we're gonNA see more is eight organizing on the APP among young people and I think we're GONNA see. TIKTOK. As long as Microsoft buys it or another company comes in to allow it to operate in the US I think it's going to stick around for a long time. I mean the president did Callan has also asked that Microsoft give money to the Treasury. If it makes this sale, we is anybody else interested in buying tiktok or is it just Microsoft right now? I don't think anyone else has come out as far as I'm aware and said that they are interested in purchasing Tik. Tok I think Microsoft even just recently confirmed that they were interested in this conversation, but it appears a deal needs to be made by September fifteenth. So if someone's going to buy it, it has to happen soon. Well you heard it here I guess I callan Rosenblatt is a youth internet culture reporter for NBC News Dot Com and Graham Webster is the editor of the digit China Project at the Stanford? University Cyber Policy Center and he's also a fellow

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