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云上岭南 Lingnan on the Cloud
U.S. scholars: when TikTok really pulls out of the U.S., it may make more Americans reflect on it
来源:羊城晚报 云上岭南 作者:孙唯 发表时间:2024-04-27 10:21

U.S. President Joe Biden said he had signed a $95 billion foreign aid bill on the same day. The bill involves forcing ByteDance to divest its app TikTok's U.S. operations. In relevant terms, ByteDance was given a deadline of about nine months to divest its U.S. operations or face a nationwide U.S. ban.In addition, Biden can exercise his power to extend the sale once for 90 days if he determines that it is progressing. Beijing time that night, TikTok in the X platform released a statement in response, the ban is unconstitutional, will take legal action.

Why is the United States banning TikTok and what kind of impact will it have on the lives of the American people?Yangcheng Evening News reporter interviewed Daniel Egger, one of the founding fathers of the international Internet, a professor at Duke University's Master of Engineering Management program, with a doctor of law from Yale University.

Business competition is the main reason TikTok was banned

"I'm not in favor of Tiktok exiting the U.S. market; it should be free to operate in the U.S. in the same way it operates now." Daniel Egger said, "It's an incorrect thing to do, but Congress and the President have shown they are willing to let it happen."

Daniel Egger said that TikTok's algorithms are different from rival social media like Facebook, Instagram, X, etc., and that it provides very different content compared to typical social media platforms. There are about 170 million Americans who use Tik Tok, which provides a whole different user experience for American users, many of whom will spend hours browsing through content on TikTok and getting a kick out of it that they can't get on other social media platforms. Other social media platforms such as Facebook and X are actually more easily manipulated by third-party actors using "bots" and fictional personas for disinformation and political manipulation. The US Government is willing to tolerate that, but seems worried about the theoretical risk of a future Chinese government causing TikTok to manipulate its own algorithms to influence US public opinion. 

In Egger's opinion, TikTok has made it easier for ordinary people in the US with no money or power to reach a receptive audience of strangers, at no cost, without having to spend money on advertising.

"TikTok allows ordinary people to grow a following for free more effectively compared to other social media, and that's a huge enhancement to US the social media ecosystem ."

So why is the US asking TikTok to exit the US market?

Daniel Egger argues that the U.S. government is not unified on the issue of TikTok, and that there are different interests and goals between different factions. 

The most influential faction that supports the TikTok ban includes those that see it as a commercial competitor, and Egger believes that is in fact the underlying impetus for TikTok's ban in the US. A second reason is the need to scapegoat a well-known target to show anti-China agitators that "something is being done about China."

The ban was primarily lobbied-for by people who see TikTok as a financial threat to their own growth, and acted because they believed they would be threatened by TikTok. 

"It's really a political process distorted by very small numbers of people with very large amounts of money." Daniel Egger said that in the current U.S. Congress, if you have money to donate, you can get members of Congress to speak and do a lot for your interests."

Some U.S. members of the House and Senate convinced themselves to vote for the ban because either, they believe that TikTok will be sold instead of banned and continue to operate in the US, or they believe that the courts will step in and block the law because it violates free speech - in effect, many legislators are rationalizing their dangerous vote by assuming that a total ban will never happen. 

Daniel Egger said, "And for Biden and his team, even if this bill passes, if it's not blocked by the courts, it still won't go into effect until after the presidential election and congressional elections in November. So the ban on TikTok, although highly unpopular with ordinary voters, isn't going to have an immediately damaging effect for them on the outcome of the election."

Americans don't see TikTok as a threat to national security

Throughout the process of banning TikTok, some members of the U.S. Congress have cited TikTok's invasion of privacy and threat to national security as justifications. In reality, however, this argument is highly speculative and not based on information shared with the public. Some in Congress say they government has secret information, but no Court in the US will ban free speech unless they are given persuasive evidence.

"By now, most people have heard the allegation that the Chinese government has access to the information they provide to the APP. But I doubt that even people who believe that is true would consider it a significant risk to themseves,"Daniel Egger said, "But all the APPs operating in the United States actually know very much about personal information and personal privacy, and most people willingly and knowingly trade some of their privacy in exchange for the services provided by free social media software. When users use Facebook, Instagram, X, etc., everyone understands that we are voluntarily selling some personal information in exchange for services and on balance benefiting from them."

According to Daniel Egger, the reason why the US Congress and the US government can successfully use the reason of "jeopardizing national security" to cover up the nature of business competition is that behind it, the US has different types of fears about China."

One of those fears is a fear of the supply chain. Many believe that the U.S. is overly reliant on China's supply chain because in the event of a supply chain disruption, the U.S. will likely be unable to obtain some key components, which could put U.S. national security at some risk as well. But attacking specific elements of the supply chain, will hurt powerful US financial interests and Companies, which will resist politically, TikTok is used mostly by individuals and small businesses that lack political power.

The bias is that TikTok doesn't work in any serious way with wealthy companies in the U.S. The business that TikTok is involved in is mostly related to small businesses, like they would advertise on TikTok or something like that. It's a fairly small problem and a much easier target to solve, so TikTok is acting like a scapegoat." While the U.S. government may seem to be doing something about the fear of China, they're not going to hurt important U.S. companies that want to do business with Chinese partners."

If TikTok does get banned, it might make more Americans reflect on it

During the TikTok ban, some U.S. lawmakers tried to convince average Americans that TikTok would be sold off, rather than pulling out of the U.S., thus lowering the resistance to the TikTok ban in the United States." But in reality, this argument is most likely a political ploy or a matter of self-deception. I do not believe TikTok will sell its algorithm to any American company. They will opt out of the American market before agreeing to a forced sale," Daniel Egger says. 

In fact, even if TikTok pulls out of the U.S.,Americans will still be able to access servers in other countries, according to Daniel Egger. Currently, Americans have unlimited access to IP addresses around the world, and if the government started blocking access to the rest of the world for US citizens, it would almost certainly be seen to violate US rules on free speech.. Thus this ban on TikTok is not actually a practical move that would support the actions of the US government, which does not prevent Americans from using the Internet.

In the meantime, TikTok has legal recourse to defend its legal rights. Previously Montana already had a state law banning TikTok. But a federal court said the law violated the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution, namely the right to free speech. Courts have stopped laws from being enacted on the grounds that they are unconstitutional, and there is a good chance that such laws will be struck down by the courts again.. A forced sale is in reality a ban - and any US court that reviews the law will understand that. All this means that although the risk of TikTok leaving the US market is more than zero, most likely the entire episode is political theater to appease two groups: business competitors and anti-China agitators. 

However, if TikTok does pull out of the United States, the impact on the average American will undoubtedly be huge."The first to bear the brunt will be small businesses, those who have built up a customer base on TikTok. And for artists, musicians, and a number of other individual creators will be affected as well."Daniel Egger said, "For example, I follow Bri Scalesse, a fashion model who uses a wheelchair, and is working to promote fashion for people with disabilities. Without TikTok, it will be much harder for people like her to be seen and succeed at their advicacy work."

"If TikTok is forced out of the US market, this will also likely will cause the American public to reflect more deeply on the US-China relationship."

At the moment, we're only hearing from those organized people who want to exacerbate tensions," Daniel Egger said. But when people start to experience the cost of increased tensions directly, I think the vast majority of people want to de-escalate them."

Interviewee Introduction

Daniel Egger has more than seventeen years experience creating new software products and services, as founder and CEO of a series of venture-backed information technology companies, and as Managing Partner in a venture capital fund. Egger is Executive in Residence in Duke University’s Master of Engineering Management Program and has taught courses in entrepreneurship and venture capital at Duke since 2003. He was formerly the Howard Johnson Foundation Entrepreneur-in-Residence in Duke’s Markets and Management Program for undergraduates.(From Duke University's official website)





丹尼尔·埃格尔表示,TikTok的算法与Facebook、Instagram、X等社交媒体不同,它能提供与一般的社交软件相比非常不同的内容。有大约1.7亿的美国人使用TikTok,这为美国用户提供了全然不同的用户体验,很多人会花费几个小时浏览TikTok上的内容,并且从中获得在其他社交软件上无法获得的乐趣。其他社交媒体平台,如 Facebook 和 X,实际上更容易被第三方利用“机器人”和虚构角色进行虚假信息和政治操纵。“美国政府愿意容忍这种情况,却似乎担心未来中国政府会让TikTok操纵自己的算法来影响美国舆论的理论风险。”



丹尼尔·埃格尔认为,美国政府在TikTok的问题上并没有达成统一,不同派别之间有不同利益和目标。那些支持TikTok禁令的派别,其实是那些视之为商业竞争对手的派别,而丹尼尔·埃格尔相信这正是TikTok在美国被禁止的根本动力。第二个原因是需要把一个众所周知的目标作为替罪羊,向反华煽动者表明 “正在对中国采取一些行动”。










与此同时,TikTok还可以通过法律维护自己的合法权益。此前蒙大拿州已经有禁止TikTok的州法律。但联邦法院表示,该法律侵犯了美国宪法赋予的美国公民的第一修正案权利,即言论自由权。法院以违宪为理由阻止了法律的颁布,这种法律很有可能会再次被法院驳回,强制出售实际上就是禁止——任何审查该法律的美国法院都会明白这一点。所有这一切都意味着,尽管TikTok 退出美国市场的风险大于零,但整个事件很可能是一场政治闹剧,目的是安抚两类人:商业竞争对手和反华煽动者。



文|记者 孙唯 实习生 王铠呈 张佳慧