MIT’s take on the TikTok ban

According to a recent MIT Review article, there’s a lot behind the divest-or-ban TikTok bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law.

President Donald Trump announced he’d ban TikTok four years ago. Naturally, the ban was tied up in courts and eventually withdrawn by the Biden administration. However, the idea wouldn’t die. Why? With the ongoing tech war and threats to national security, any tech company with Chinese roots will remain under the microscope.

The app has always had issues, including operational influence by the Chinese government, black-box algorithms, and ByteDance’s failure to cleanly separate the U.S. and Chinese sides. To survive, it must transfer ownership to a U.S. entity. 

Most Chinese tech giants, including Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, operate primarily within China’s borders. TikTok, however, has gained popularity in other countries worldwide. 

As TikTok faced its challenges, other Chinese companies attempted to distance themselves from their roots. However, they soon realized that in the current climate, such efforts would be futile. With the introduction of the divest-or-ban bill, their national origin is more important than their technical details. 

One of the results of the banning trend is that there will no longer be any transparency in this and similar situations. The U.S. will know a fraction of what it does now regarding technology from China. Are the results of the ban worth the risk?

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