TikTok submits proposal to U.S. authorities to resolve security concerns
  ·  2020-09-16  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency
Photo taken on August 21 shows a logo of the video-sharing social networking company TikTok's Los Angeles Office in Culver City, Los Angeles County, the United States (XINHUA)

Video-sharing social networking platform TikTok said on September 14 it had submitted a proposal to the U.S. administration to resolve its "security concerns," in order to continue the company's operation in the future.

Oracle, a U.S. multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in California, also confirmed in a statement on September 14 that it had reached a deal with TikTok's Chinese parent, ByteDance, to be the latter's U.S. trusted partner.

Partnership bid

TikTok, based in Los Angeles and specializing in user-made short videos, said in a statement that the proposal "would enable us to continue supporting our community of 100 million people in the U.S. who love TikTok for connection and entertainment, and the hundreds of thousands of small business owners and creators who rely upon TikTok to grow their livelihoods and build meaningful careers."

Meanwhile, Oracle, which has a 40-year track record providing secure technology solutions, said that it is part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the U.S. Treasury Department over the weekend.

The two companies' statements followed U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's note during an interview with CNBC early on September 14.

"We did get a proposal over the weekend that includes Oracle as the trusted technology partner, with Oracle making many representations for national security issues," Mnuchin said. "There is also a commitment to creating TikTok Global as a U.S.-headquartered company with 20,000 new jobs."

None of them provided any details about the proposal, which still needs the approval of the U.S. administration.

U.S. President Donald Trump and some U.S. politicians have repeatedly speculated that TikTok poses a national security threat to the country, though no evidence has been provided to support the allegations.

On August 6, Trump issued an executive order banning U.S. transactions with ByteDance, citing the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The ban will take effect on September 20.

On August 14, he signed a second executive order that will force ByteDance to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business within 90 days.

As the clock is ticking for the bans to take effect, U.S. investors involved in the deal, including Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic, backed Oracle's bid for TikTok as the tech firm has strong political connections to Trump, according to the Business Insider.

Coercive robbery

TikTok has sued the U.S. administration to block the order issued on August 6, arguing it is unconstitutional. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce were listed as defendants in the 39-page indictment.

Last week, Trump said the deadline set for ByteDance to sell TikTok's U.S. assets would not be extended, drawing harsh criticism from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

The tricks of economic bullying and political manipulation that the United States is playing on non-American companies are tantamount to coercive robbery, said Zhao.

"It violates market principles and international rules, and reveals the irony when the U.S. claims to be a champion of market economy and fair competition," Zhao said.

Since last year, U.S. authorities have repeatedly accused TikTok of being a potential threat to U.S. national security. U.S. officials have alleged that the company could pass on user data it collects to the Chinese government, a claim rejected by TikTok.

TikTok said its key personnel are all Americans based in the United States, while its U.S. content moderation is likewise led by a U.S.-based team and operates independently from China, and the popular application stores U.S. user data on servers located in the United States and Singapore.

"There is absolutely no evidence that TikTok poses a threat to U.S. national security," Gary Hufbauer, a former U.S. Treasury official and nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told Xinhua.

"The claim is based on speculation that any mobile device with a Chinese app can be used to spy on Americans," Hufbauer said. "Paranoia pure and simple."

Digital governance

Experts have pointed out that U.S. moves concerning TikTok serve the administration's political interest, and the same purpose is hidden in Washington's recently-hyped "Clean Network" program.

According to the five lines of effort under the program, Washington will seek to remove "untrusted" Chinese apps such as TikTok and WeChat from U.S. mobile app stores, among others, to "protect America's critical telecommunications and technology infrastructure."

"The actions against TikTok and WeChat are to weaken China's role in the global digital economy generally, mainly for geopolitical reasons," Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University and a senior United Nations advisor, told Xinhua.

"Of course there is a link with Trump's white evangelical electoral base, which is anti-foreign in general, and is now strongly anti-Chinese, as exemplified by Pompeo," Sachs said, referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose recent anti-China speech has drawn wide criticism.

The U.S.' actions have fundamentally violated the inherent law of technological development, run counter to the trend and direction of digital economy development, and are harming the common interests of the global community, including China and the United States, said Shen Yi, a scholar on global cyberspace governance at China's Fudan University.

Zuo Xiaodong, Vice President of the China Information Security Research Institute, said the U.S.' moves reveal the intention to purge Chinese high-tech companies, cripple China's competitiveness, and contain China's development.

"The international community should form a consensus on data security as soon as possible," Zuo said, expressing hope that a set of "fair and reasonable" international rules on data security could be formed to prevent some Western countries from seizing data with the help of new technologies.

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