The Trump administration’s recently announced bans on Chinese-owned social media platforms TikTok and WeChat could have unintended consequences. The orders bar the apps from doing business in the U.S. or with U.S. persons or businesses after September 20 and require divestiture of TikTok by November 12.
The executive orders are based on national security grounds, though the threats cited are to citizens rather than the government. Foreign policy analysts see the move as part of the administration’s ongoing wrestling match with the Chinese government for leverage in the global economy.
Whatever the motivation, as someone who researches both cybersecurity and technology policy, I am not convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs. The bans threaten Americans’ freedom of speech and may harm foreign investment in the U.S. and American companies’ ability to sell software abroad while delivering minimal privacy and cybersecurity benefits.
National security threat?