Though the U.S. government averted a shutdown of TikTok through a new Oracle/Walmart partnership, that leaves much bigger questions unresolved. The biggest issue may be that banning apps “defeats the original intent of the internet,” argues the New York TImes. “And that was to create a global communications network, unrestrained by national borders.”
“The vision for a single, interconnected network around the globe is long gone,” Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs and an expert on cyber conflict. “All we can do now is try to steer toward optimal fragmentation.”
But the Times also asks whether the TikTok agreement fails even at its original goal of protecting the app from foreign influence:
The code and algorithms are the magic sauce that Beijing now says, citing its own national security concerns, may not be exported to to a foreign adversary… Microsoft’s bid went further: It would have owned the source code and algorithms from the first day of the acquisition, and over the course of a year moved their development entirely to the United States, with engineers vetted for “insider threats.” So far, at least, Oracle has not declared how it would handle that issue. Nor did President Trump in his announcement of the deal. Until they do, it will be impossible to know if Mr. Trump has achieved his objective: preventing Chinese engineers, perhaps under the influence of the state, from manipulating the code in ways that could censor, or manipulate, what American users see.
Other questions also remain, including America’s larger policy towards other apps like Telegram made by foreign countries. Even Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford’s Freeman-Spogli Institute, complains to the Times that “bashing TikTok is not a China strategy. China has a multi-prong strategy to win the tech race. It invests in American technology, steals intellectual property and now develops its own technology that is coming into the U.S… And yet we think we can counter this by banning an app. The forest is on fire, and we are spraying a garden hose on a bush.”
And another article in the Times argues that the TikTok agreement doesn’t even eliminate Chinese ownership of the app:
Under the initial terms, ByteDance still controls 80 percent of TikTok Global, two people with knowledge of the situation have said, though details may change. ByteDance’s chief executive, Zhang Yiming, will also be on the company’s board of directors, said a third person. And the government did not provide specifics about how the deal would answer its security concerns about TikTok…
A news release published by Walmart on Saturday on its website — then edited later — captured the chaos. “This unique technology eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation,” the company said. “Ekejechb ecehggedkrrnikldebgtkjkddhfdenbhbkuk.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.