According to Donald Trump, the popular teenage application, owned by a Chinese firm, is a threat to the "security" of the United S...
According to Donald Trump, the popular teenage application, owned by a Chinese firm, is a threat to the "security" of the United States.
- Threats and pressure have increased in recent days between China and the United States in a battle between Donald Trump and the TikTok application, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
- On the night of August 6-7, the US president signed an executive order banning all transactions "by persons under US jurisdiction" with TikTok's Chinese parent company within 45 days.
- According to Washington, the application would be a tool of espionage for the Chinese intelligence services, which the application has always denied.
Forty-five days. That is the time limit set by Donald Trump before prohibiting any transaction between the TikTok application - a global success owned by a Chinese company - and an American company. This is a further blow of pressure in a political and economic tug-of-war between the American president and China for several days.
If this decree, signed during the night of Thursday to Friday, does not specify the concrete consequences of such a decision for the millions of American users, it could however force Google and Apple to withdraw TikTok from their app stores, preventing, in fact, to use them in the United States. But what does Washington blame this social network for? Why is this decision being made now, and how has China reacted to this announcement?
TikTok, what is it?
At the height of containment, this application that allows you to generate and share short videos has surpassed the two billion downloads worldwide. An "unparalleled" success for China, according to cyber security researcher Baptiste Robert:
"With the instant messaging application WeChat [also targeted by the Trump administration], TikTok is the only Chinese application that has been phenomenally successful around the world and has managed to break through outside the country's borders. "
Very popular among teenagers, TikTok is a version of the "Douyin" application, which is aimed at the Chinese market. Both belong to the privately owned ByteDance group, founded in Beijing in 2012.
What's wrong with the application?
For the White House, TikTok would represent a "threat" to the country's security. After announcing his intentionto "ban" the application from the United States, the American president signed an executive order in the night of August 6-7banning all transactions between an American company and ByteDance within 45days. A way to increase pressure while negotiations are underway between Microsoftand the Chinese parent company of the social network.
This decree ensures that "TikTok automatically captures large amounts of information about its users (...), potentially allowing China to track government employees, gather personal files for blackmail purposes and practice industrial espionage". Accusations made without tangible proof, points out hacker and cyber security researcher Baptiste Robert, who recently analyzed the data retrieved by the application.
According to him, TikTok's use of the data is no different from that of Instagram or Facebook, two U.S. firms. He explains:
"If you look at the network queries made by the phone when the application is installed - that is, what TikTok will ask outside on the Internet and what it will take from your phone - we find nothing extraordinary. The app takes a fingerprint of your phone with some elements of your device - identifiers, your name, surname, if you're on a wifi network or on a 4G network - but these are extremely common things. Is it good? No, but it's not an exception".
On the other hand, the independent researcher acknowledges:
"The line between the Chinese government and private Chinese companies is very blurred and data sharing between these companies and the authorities is a reality.
What is the context for this decision?
This decision is part of a long-term strategy undertaken by Donald Trump from the beginning of his mandate. Since 2017, China has been presented as a threat by the American president. This decree comes in the context of an election campaign. Donald Trump is trying to differentiate himself from the Democrats and to assert himself as the sole defender of American interests against China.
But this arm wrestling on the international field would have another short-term advantage for the Republican candidate.
This new episode between Donald Trump and China is a way for the American president to divert media attention and that of the Americans from his management of the Covid-19 epidemic, which until now has been heavily criticized. With 158,000 deaths recorded in the country since the beginning of the crisis, the United States is one of the most affected countries by the coronavirus.
How did China and the application react?
It only took a few hours in Beijing to raise the tone. After the signing of the decree, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, accused the United States of carrying out "arbitrary political manipulation and repression.
Hearing China say that this decree infringes on the freedom of expression and creation of Internet users goes beyond the irony when we know that the majority of social networks are banned there. However, this argument should not be used to justify the American decision to ban TikTok from the United States.
And the case could now go to court. In a statement released this Friday, TikTok has already warned:
"We will use all available means to ensure that the rule of law is respected and that our company and our users receive fair treatment, if not from the U.S. government, then from the U.S. courts.