The bigger stakes of the TikTok debate
It’s not just TikTok that’s in trouble. The open internet is too. On August 6, President Trump issued an executive order prohibiting transactions with the video-sharing app TikTok. Since the app is owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance, it could pose national security and privacy risks to users in the US, the order states.
But the Trump administration’s actions targeting TikTok mark a departure from the traditional American techno-libertarian position on internet governance and free speech online. And it comes at a time when the concept of a global internet is under threat.
Nations are increasingly pursuing various forms of internet sovereignty, from Russia building a walled-off intranet to India regularly shutting down the internet in areas of social unrest to some European nations introducing a right to be forgotten from search engines.
All these trends point in the direction of a “ splinternet ,” where your experience of the internet increasingly depends on where you live and the whims of the ruling parties there. As we explain in the video above, that’s a tough environment for an app like TikTok, which became globally successful almost immediately, and which connects people from around the world in hyper-personalized but often international subcultures.
With the excesses of the open internet visible daily (see: foreign election interference, data breaches, misinformation and hate speech, and domestic and corporate surveillance), countries supporting a free internet will need to establish a set of principles that ensures its future. But they may have to do it without the United States.
You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube . And join the Open Sourced Reporting Network to help us report on the real consequences of data, privacy, algorithms, and AI.
Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.
New goal: 25,000
In the spring, we launched a program asking readers for financial contributions to help keep Vox free for everyone, and last week, we set a goal of reaching 20,000 contributors. Well, you helped us blow past that. Today, we are extending that goal to 25,000. Millions turn to Vox each month to understand an increasingly chaotic world — from what is happening with the USPS to the coronavirus crisis to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work — and helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world. Contribute today from as little as $3.