Tech

Why does the United States insist on blocking TikTok?

The U.S. Congress is implementing a political crackdown on TikTok. This is the second Chinese company hit by the administrative power of the U.S. government. The last one was Huawei.

Compared with Huawei, TikTok is in a very bad situation. Everyone knows that TikTok is the international version of Douyin. It is now facing a public opinion situation that does not please both China and the United States. In China, Douyin has been criticized by many netizens, who regard Douyin’s intelligent recommendation algorithm as a scourge. Because it can highly accurately recommend the content that users want to watch most, it is easy for users to become addicted to it.

There is a joke on the Internet: “5 minutes of Douyin, 2 hours in the world.” This is a concentrated summary of Douyin’s intelligent recommendation algorithm. In the dead of night, when you turn on Douyin and want to swipe for 5 minutes before going to bed, and then watch all kinds of young ladies, delicious food, funny jokes, international news and people’s livelihood, time is like a strong wind, I don’t know Before I knew it, I floated away.

The captain would like to call it “The Time Bandit”. In the stock era of the Internet, “seizing user time” was once considered the number one strategic location by major Internet giants. When it is difficult for new users to achieve leapfrog development, improving user retention becomes the first indicator of business conversion efficiency. Everyone has a limited number of apps in their mobile phones. The more time you spend on Douyin, the less time you spend on WeChat, and the less time you spend playing games and watching dramas.
For a long time, Tencent regarded Douyin as its number one competitor. In order to encircle and suppress Douyin, Tencent has successively launched more than a dozen short video apps, but in the end they failed to stop the rapid growth of Douyin. In 2022, the per capita user time of Douyin will have exceeded 2 hours, while the per capita user time of WeChat will only be more than 70 minutes.

Sun Zhonghuai, vice president of Tencent, once criticized short video tools, saying: “The personalized recommendation of short videos is too powerful. If you like pig food, all you see is pig food.” He implied that the content quality of short videos is low. In the reckless period of short video growth, both Kuaishou and Douyin had a lot of low-quality content, which was also criticized by users. But there is no doubt that the rise of short videos has contributed to China’s most powerful new company in the mobile Internet era: ByteDance.

To this day, Douyin is still boycotted by many Chinese netizens. On the public opinion side, criticisms about Douyin have been coming and going and never stopped. In the United States, TikTok is also facing the same dilemma. On the one hand, TikTok has quickly become the mainstream social media platform for the post-90s and post-00s generation of young people in the United States. On the other hand, the U.S. government has borderless fear and suspicion of TikTok.

If in China, the company that regards Douyin as an important competitor is Tencent, then in the United States, the company that regards TikTok as an important competitor is Facebook . However, the competition between Tencent and ByteDance is mainly based on fair commercial competition, which is benign and conducive to preventing monopolistic behavior in the short video market.

But the competition between Facebook and TikTok is full of malice. Zuckerberg himself has repeatedly called on the US government to block TikTok. Because TikTok and Facebook are highly similar in business model, they mainly make money by selling information flow advertisements. When more and more users are taken away by TikTok, Facebook’s advertisers are also taken away by TikTok in large numbers. What TikTok directly shakes in the United States is the foundation of Facebook’s advertising business, and it has entered the hinterland of Facebook’s commercial interests.

When competing with Douyin, Tencent’s largest business income is games, not advertising. But Facebook completely tore off the mask of hypocrisy, not even decent, and invested heavily in lobbying in the US Congress to push the US government to block TikTok.

This is a typical “market competition can’t beat, just call the US government’s administrative intervention.” During the Trump administration, the U.S. government forced TikTok to sell itself to an American company. At the time, Zuckerberg wanted to pick peaches. But in the end, Microsoft invested $30 billion to acquire TikTok. However, in the end, under the intervention of the Chinese government, coupled with Trump’s re-election defeat, the acquisition was forced to be suspended.

But this does not mean that the US government has given up its suppression of TikTok. In order to operate in the United States as compliant as possible and dispel the doubts of the U.S. government, TikTok has almost achieved full data transparency in the United States.

TikTok implements distributed storage of global data, and all US data is stored in the US, and outsourced to Oracle in the US for full hosting. In other words, if the U.S. government wants to use TikTok’s data, it doesn’t need to find TikTok, just ask Oracle. As for the risk of data leakage of TikTok accused by the United States, if it is really leaked, it must be that Oracle has sold TikTok’s data.

These data are not in the hands of TikTok or ByteDance at all, but in the hands of Oracle Corporation of the United States. This is like Apple selling mobile phones in China. Apple’s Chinese data is stored in Guizhou, China, and is not allowed to leave the country.

If a government wants to create a good business environment, when it encounters risks, it should strengthen its own management and control capabilities, instead of blocking foreign companies at will.

The U.S. government’s insistence on banning TikTok has nothing to do with TikTok’s security. Just like the U.S. ban on Huawei, it’s not because Huawei really has loopholes. Its fundamental reason is to maintain the hegemony of the United States.

The purpose of blocking Huawei is to maintain the technological hegemony of the United States, and the purpose of blocking TikTok is to maintain the hegemony of public opinion in the United States. So far, the total combined users of Douyin and TikTok has exceeded 2.4 billion, of which TikTok has about 1.5 billion users and Douyin has about 900 million users. This is the highest number of users owned by a Chinese Internet company, and it is also the most successful case of Chinese social media tools going overseas.

There are only 5 apps with more than 1 billion daily active users worldwide, and 4 of them are from the United States. TikTok is the only app created by a Chinese company. 50% of Americans, 30% of Europeans, and 30% of Southeast Asians are using TikTok, and more than 1 billion people in the world use TikTok every day.

However, TikTok was not created by an American company. The U.S. government cannot manipulate TikTok from a global perspective. At this point, TikTok and Huawei have the same impact on US hegemony. The United States can only supervise TikTok in the United States, but not all countries outside the United States. If the United States wants to implement Internet penetration in other countries in the world, TikTok will become a major gap in American Internet hegemony.

What the United States wants is not to block TikTok in the United States, but to block TikTok in the entire Western world with the United States as the center. Just like dealing with Huawei, the United States first blocked it, then expanded to the Five Eyes Alliance, and finally incited more Western countries to sanction and block TikTok together.

Of course, the best outcome is for an American company to acquire Tiktok. In this way, the United States can directly take over TikTok’s 1.5 billion global users and firmly hold global Internet hegemony in its own hands.

But it is not easy. The Chinese government has enacted the “Core Technology Export Control Law”. The smart recommendation algorithm behind TikTok belongs to ByteDance and cannot be sold overseas without the permission of the Chinese government.

On the surface, TikTok is a commercial company, but its huge size has become a weight in the game between China and the United States. The captain believes that from Huawei to Tiktok, this will not be the end. In the future, as more Chinese companies move to the top of the world, there will be more business games between China and the United States.

At this time, in contrast to the global expansion of Tencent and Mihayou’s games, they have not encountered major obstacles. Internet games going overseas is currently the most successful industry in China’s globalization and the industry with the least resistance. However, Tencent has been lying in the comfort zone for too long, and it seems harmless to humans and animals internationally.

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