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FCC Commissioner Calls for U.S. TikTok Ban

FCC Commissioner Calls for U.S. TikTok Ban

FCC Commissioner Calls for U.S. TikTok Ban
image credit: TikTok

published by Chad Evans
November 4, 2022 at 1:06 p.m.

TikTok poses a security risk to the United States, according to Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. The critical concern is that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has too much access to U.S. users’ data, posing a security threat. Instead of coming to an agreement, the Trump appointee suggests that the streaming video giant cease operations in the United States.

TikTok is a popular social media portal where users create short videos with preset effects. Although it doesn’t directly compete with YouTube, it has definitely taken eyeballs away from what was once the most popular amateur video streaming service. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have all succumbed to TikTok’s dominance.

Average Time Spent per Day by U.S. Adult Users on Select Social Media Platforms, 2022
image credit: Insider Intelligence

Motivating factors influencing Carr’s call to ban TikTok remain unclear. Beyond a pattern of blocking Chinese technology in the United States, the commissioner is not involved in talks between TikTok and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Despite his absence, Carr feels dubious about cementing an effective deal with TikTok that would protect Americans. The commissioner told CNN:

“…at this point I have a very, very difficult time looking at TikTok’s conduct thinking we’re going to cut a technical construct that they’re not going to find a way around.”

TikTok agreed to host all U.S. data on Oracle servers. According to the social media company, much of the misunderstanding stems from a highly speculative BuzzFeed article. TikTok is working on “Project Texas” with Oracle and Booz Allen to ensure data protection for U.S. customers.

According to a letter from TikTok to U.S. lawmakers, the company must go through a thorough process to obtain non-sensitive user data from U.S. customers. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew asserts that “this access will be very limited, it will not include private TikTok U.S. user information, and it will only occur pursuant to protocols being developed with the U.S. Government.”

Carr doesn’t mention specifics as to why he doesn’t trust TikTok to comply with U.S. government arrangements. It’s more that he doubts any technical solution will halt access to U.S. data. He points to an ideology of limiting Chinese presence in American I.T. and telecommunications technology to prevent data flow to Chinese authorities.

It’s entirely possible to audit data transactions and determine where it’s flowing, particularly from such a large source. Perhaps Carr’s background as a lawyer and lack of technical expertise prevent him from accepting the feasibility of a deal between TikTok and the U.S. government.

Carr views fit well with both the Biden and Trump administration’s dubious views of China. Trump is well known for Sinophobic gestures and trade conflicts. The Biden administration recently prevented China’s access to advanced microprocessor manufacturing technology. Regardless of the administration, the motives appear more political than technical.

It appears that, regardless of what agreement CFIUS and TikTok commit to, Carr will object. However, the decision is not up to the FCC commissioner. In this case, the power is in the hands of the FTC, Commerce Department, and CFIUS.

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