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Ask not for whom the tik toks

“TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours”, reports the BBC.

All things considered, I do still want Trump to win the US election, but this sounds like a stupid measure. Banning things is almost always intrinsically stupid, as is running your politics by the threat of bans. It will also lose him votes from people who happen to like TikTok.

I suspect that like Sadiq Khan’s ban on Uber operating in London (the appeal against which will be heard on 28th September), Trump’s move is basically a shakedown. Note the delay before implementation in both cases. Either ban could be reversed at a moment’s notice for the right price. So far as I know Londoners can still use Uber now, and that will continue until the appeals process is exhausted, which could mean ten days or ten years. As for Tiktok in the US,

If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app will not be banned.

16 comments to Ask not for whom the tik toks

  • The intersection of TikTok users and Trump supporters is going to be very small.

    Also it doesn’t ban current users from continuing to expose themselves (in many ways). Just bans new downloads.

    My biggest problem with it is that Trump has, and should have the ability to ban the app from *government* networks, but not public networks.

    China is asshole, and they *are* corrupting our networks and stealing data.

  • bobby b

    The security problems with TT are manifest. But they’re well-known now, which puts this in the “if you’re dumb enough to use it, feel free” category.

    But the votes that Trump might lose by being heavy-handed here are vastly outweighed by the votes he garners with the simple “ooo, he’s screwing with China!” sentiment.

  • Banning China from installing spyware on western government systems seems a reasonable power for Trump or indeed Boris to have. If we assume TikTok is fully-describable as spyware, but does not market itself as such, then (speaking colloquially, not as regards the actually-relevant law) the trades descriptions act alone would empower a wider ban.

    Whether the ban will work is a question we know to ask, and which all governments should always ask about all bans. I suggest that it’s main effect (on those beyond the large number who must care because government employs them or contracts their employer, or one day might), is to force them to think about whether they are indeed installing software that will spy on them.

    Meanwhile, I see benefits to Trump beyond the obvious. IIRC, it was (said to be) on TikTok that his enemies organised a ticket reservation scam that made his first rally of the 2020 campaign look undersubscribed. He will not mind the security services having cause to monitor any repetition, or being able to present it as criminal and/or in cahoots with President Xi. The ban may not need to be respected by his enemies to serve his purposes.

    As to how sinister TikTok is, I know that ‘China is asshole’, so I needed no ban to avoid installing it on any device of mine.

  • Nullius in Verba

    They’re also banning WeChat, as of tomorrow, and there are no deals on offer there. As for the security question – the ban doesn’t stop people with the App continuing to use it, but it does stop them downloading any security updates for it. Hmm.

    There are two things probably going on with this. The more important is likely to be Trump’s trade war with China. Trump is trying to open up the Chinese market to access from outside, and he’s supporting it in the domestic political arena with a combination of support from protectionist business interests and nationalist/protectionist politics of ‘defending American jobs’ against the Yellow Peril. The Protectionist politics is really bad – instead of educating people on how damaging Protectionism is, it encourages their belief in Protectionist thinking and entrenches it in the partisan dogma. Even if his plan is to use it only as a temporary tactic to get the Chinese to stop being so Protectionist, it’s not good to encourage Americans to support the idea. It’s too seductive a fallacy as it is. I can see arguments both ways on that, but my ends-don’t-justify-the-means reflex is to oppose protectionism and bans generally – society should only restrict individual freedom to prevent direct, serious harm.

    The other thing going on is that the national intelligence services are engaged in a war for information supremacy, winning access to everyone’s personal data while denying it to one another. One of Ed Snowden’s revelations was about how the NSA was installing spyware in American-manufactured routers being shipped to China, and has developed a range of means of collecting personal data automatically, at the mass population level. That’s besides the fact that most of the data is for sale anyway, and governments have plenty of money. The Snowden revelations led the Chinese to stop buying American-made kit, which upset the American harware manufacturers, and likely led to political pressure over the damaged markets, and push-back on cooperating again with the NSA. The NSA don’t want to lose access to their domestic population through concern over privacy, still want to penetrate China, and need the cooperation of the hardware, software, and social media industries to do it. So part of this is about putting pressure on China to let them back in, part on distracting public attention away from domestic government spying and industry marketing personal data by giving them an outside focus for all their concerns, and possibly as a shot across the bows of anyone else in social media thinking of not cooperating with the American government on access. If they can take down or take over TikTok, then they can take down others.

    Assuming TikTok is spyware, do you think it will cease to be used as such once Americans own it? The argument there is obviously supposed to be that you can trust the American government. Does that sound convincing to you? (And if you’re inclined to reflexively defend the Trump administration as totally trustworthy in that regard, bear in mind that it will be the Deep State that has the power. As will any future Antifa-supporting Democrat administrations… Still happy to trust them?)

    There are also questions over the first amendment. The ban stops American software developers using the WeChat and TikTok APIs and software. That’s telling American coders what they can and cannot write. It’s telling the software marketplaces what software they can and cannot distribute. For ‘National Security’. Once they have the power, and the precedent is established, do you think they won’t use it for other purposes?

  • but it does stop them downloading any security updates for it. Hmm.

    You forgot to put “security” in sneer quotes.

  • John B

    People in Governments just do not understand technology in general and the Internet in particular. They always come a cropper when they think their edicts are in any way practical to implement.

    Banning downloads is easy, stopping them not so much.

  • CaptDMO

    Conspicuous in their absence-
    The recent ejection of an entire Chinese Consulate in Houston Texas.
    Red flags on “Higher education” that associates with The Confucius Institute.
    Recent arrests of academics attempting to transfer research, and who knows what ELSE
    data/info associated with US gub’mint, to China.
    The amount of counterfeit/intellectual property theft “goods” brought into the US from China is STAGGERING
    Including “AntiFa supplies” and “rush order” political ephemera.

  • Paul Marks

    Natalie – you misunderstand President Trump, I did myself FOR YEARS.

    Donald John Trump stakes out an “extreme” position (say “I am going to ban Tic Toc) as a basis for talks for what he really wants – which is something quite different.

    In this case President Trump never wanted to “ban Tic Toc” he wanted an end to People’s Republic of China control of it – which is what he has achieved.

    The People’s Republic of China is a Leninist political dictatorship (although it does NOT have a Marxist economy – that failed under Mao), bent on world domination.

    Yes world domination – so it is the duty of everyone to oppose the PRC.

    That is one reason why President Trump must win the election – and Mr Joseph Biden should be in prison his family took money from the PRC in return for Vice President Biden (as he then was) betraying the United States.

    Indeed the paid (bribed) treason of Mr Joseph Biden goes back a long time before he became Vice President – he was “bought and paid for” by the PRC even as a Senator.

    The vast amount of bribe money the Biden family took from the Ukraine (essentially a small percentage of the billions of Dollars American aid given to the Ukraine under the Obama Administration was given to the Biden family via large payments to the crack cocaine addict Hunter Biden – Vice President Biden had been put in charge of overseeing policy towards the Ukraine, including American aid to the Ukraine) was massive financial corruption.

    In a sane society Mr Joseph Biden would be in prison for the money his family was paid in return for his (Joseph Biden) supporting certain interests in the Ukraine.

    In the utterly insane society we have in this world Joseph Biden did no serve a day in prison for he massive financial corruption in relation to the Ukraine – indeed President Trump was almost “impeached” for daring to suggest that it be investigated (one is not allowed to investigate the bribery of people the media, and establishment generally, support).

    However, the bribery from the PRC is another matter.

    Neither Joseph Biden or his drug addict son have any goods or services to sell – none. They have no skills and have never produced any goods.

    They sell one thing only – political influence.

    Mr Biden should be in prison over the money from the Ukraine.

    But the penalty for being paid to betray the United States to the People’s Republic of China is more severe.

    As for the media and the rest of the establishment – they know all of the above, every word of it, and they do no care. Indeed they over up the corruption of the Biden family and serve the interests of the PRC against the the United States and the West generally.

    The “liberal” establishment are traitors.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way I know the defence of Mr Biden – namely that he is mentally unfit to stand trial. And that may be true. But it is not the case of the rest of the establishment, the “mainstream” media and so on.

    Turning to other matters….

    Mr Biden (or rather those who control him) has made it clear that he would appoint Justices that would end what is left of the Bill of Rights.

    The Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) would be “interpreted” out of existence (it would be declared “ambiguous” as a certain swine once declares that the United Kingdom independence referendum of 2016 was “ambiguous”) and de facto destroyed – just as this right was destroyed in MEXICO.

    Gun control Mexico (there is one legal gun shop for civilians – in an army base in the Mexico City area, so “the Constitutional right has not been violated by the regulations” as the corrupt vermin who make the judicial system would put it, in relation to the Mexican Constitution of 1917), is not exactly know for being peaceful – but firearms are mostly in the hands of criminals not honest people, and that is what the American Democrats want.

    Yes the American left want property holders to be disarmed so they can be looted and killed – their support for the Marxist BLM riots makes that horribly clear. People desperately called the police whilst their homes were under attack – only to be told that Democrat Mayors had issued “stand down” orders to the police, leaving the Marxists to loot-burn-and-kill as they pleased.

    Remember to Marxists, criminals are “socially friendly elements” as the criminals undermine “capitalist” private property – which they do effectively in most of Latin America and increasingly in places such as New York City (wit the support of the Marxist, Castro supporting, Democrat Mayor of New York City).

    The First Amendment, freedom of speech, would also be destroyed – as conservative speech would be ruled “Hate Speech” and effectively banned by regulatins.

    Again the Democrats are not hiding this. They regard tolerating conservative speech as “Repressive Tolerance” (this is from the Marxist Herbert Marcuse – there was a time when one had to be careful to draw a line between Democrats and Marxists – but given the Marxist influence over most of (most of – NOT all) the education system, and the fact that Democrats actually believe what the universities teach, the distinction between Democrats and Marxists has at least PARTLY broken down).

    Freedom of Speech would go – as it is part of a “power structure” that “oppresses and exploits” certain groups – women, blacks and-so-on.

    It should be stressed that older Democrats, such as Mr Biden, are NOT Marxists – they are just corrupt nonentities who do what they are told.

    as for religion – fake religion, “Social Justice” (i.e. Marxist Liberation Theology and Social Gospel) will remain – but real religion (i.e. belief that actually is a PERSON called God, that God is NOT a metaphor for “the people”, and that the INDIVIDUAL soul survives death – rather than there being “Collective Salvation” as Barack Obama used to put it) will be crushed – at least they will continue to do all they can to crush real Christianity, Judaism and so on (religion is actually quite hard to totally destroy).

    Atheists will not be treated better – it would be easy to find ways to close down Objectivist publishers and book shops and so on.

    “Hate Speech” – or just “Covid 19”.

    Anyone who still pretends that the Covid restrictions (“we do not like you – you must close, we like you – you can stay open”) in Democrat States are anything to do with “Public Health” is an obvious liar.

    Any opposition, to anything, will be met with the following response.

    “Our judges have ruled that it is fine – so shut up, you racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe, Islamophobe”.

    People will not be allowed to point out that it is a contradiction to be opposed to “sexism, homophobia and transphobia” AND to support Islam – as Islam does not have a Frankfurt School of Marxism position on women, homosexuals and so on.

    Even saying this will be considered “Hate Speech”.

    As for the Marxist assumption that Islam will be easy to subvert – with (as in “Social Justice” FAKE Christianity) God being reinterpreted as a “metaphor” for the people, and individual life after death being reinterpreted as the “Collective Salvation” of the masses (Holy Trinity “Church” in Chicago – which Barack attended for 20 years) – I think the Marxists are mistaken about that.

    Islam was around long before Marxism – and it will be around long after it.

    Islam is not ignorant of the arts of deception – and the Marxists who think they are deceiving Muslims may themselves be being deceived.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    john B., saw an exanple of this on a youtube clip- the reason that the Nazies didn’t attack radar stations is because the German high command officers didn’t put much value on them. They were still thinking old-school, as we would say. It was only because Hitler heard about an alternative to attacking France, by going around through Belgium, that the Germens managed to invade Paris.

  • Paul Marks

    It is often said on the left (at least in private) that Comrade Barack Obama did not achieve much – but I believe that is a mistaken view, I think Comrade Barack achieved a great deal in helping build the foundations for the totalitarian project.

    For example, in most American universities there was a measure of Freedom of Speech as recently as 2008. By skillful “interpretation” of Title Nine of the Civil Rights Act, Barack was able to largely exterminate Freedom of Speech in most universities as, it was argued, such Repressive Tolerance harmed students from certain groups (blacks, women, homosexuals….. – all supposedly victims of exploitation and oppression by the “Power Structures” of capitalism).

    By massively reducing dissent in universities (with a few brave exceptions such as Hillsdale Collage which refuses government “Student Loans”) Barack was able to help “educate” (indoctrinate) a whole generation of Corporate managers as well as other bureaucrats.

    It is often forgotten that, whilst leftist, most American films and television shows were NOT Marxist – again as recently as 2008.

    The present situation where Corporations such as Comcast (Universal pictures) insist that all films and entertainment shows follow the Frankfurt School of Marxism “Diversity and Inclusion” totalitarianism – is quite recent. And Comrade Barack deserves a lot of the credit for spreading the agenda of evil in this area – via the crushing of dissenting opinions in universities.

    It is true that such Marxists things as “Critical Race Theory” did NOT start under him – they go back many decades, but they got a massive boost due to the quiet hard work that Barack Obama did for the cause of evil over eight years as President. For example, Marxist training of Federal Government employees expanded massively under him – and these bureaucrats (including it the security services) did not suddenly stop being influenced by Marxist doctrines on January 20th 2017.

    Some things that Comrade Barack did are fairly easy to reverse.

    For example, the Administration de facto nationalised LAND (a central objective of the Communist Manifesto of 1848) by the “environment” trick (the “environment” being the COVID 19 of the time – i.e. the excuse for totalitarianism) – by declaring that all land with water on it was under the control of the EPA.

    President Trump reversed that Executive Order with one of his own. And for once the corrupt judges did not jump in screaming “you can not reverse a sacred Executive Order of Comrade Barack” which is what passes for “legal reasoning” in judicial circles, see DACA which was ILLEGAL when President Obama did it, but President Trump was not allowed to STOP the illegality, with the same sort of “reasoning” that Dread Pirate Roberts used in the census (citizenship question) case and many other cases.

    But how is President Trump going to reverse the indoctrination of an entire generation of people?

    Yes he has sent out Executive Orders trying to reverse the harm done in the schools and universities – but with very limited success.

    And what of the senior people (in all parts of American life) who have been “educated” and now sit in positions of power?

    It was impossible for President Barack Obama to impose Marxist totalitarianism in 2009 – the leftists who say he “failed” because he did not do this simply do not understand the situation of the time.

    But the situation of NOW is very different – see how the (Marxist influenced) media and so on supported the “Lockdowns” (which HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PUBLIC HEALTH).

    Most of the large capitalist corporations have a generation of managers now whose minds are saturated in Frankfurt School doctrines – that was NOT the case in 2009.

    Nor is this just a American thing – see, for example, my own experience with “Conservative” Central Office in 2019 (when it became horribly clear just how influenced they were by Marxist ideas – without their even knowing that the ideas they trotted out “Diversity and Inclusion” were part of the totalitarian agenda of the Frankfurt School of Marxism).

    And remember this as all before “Covid 19” could be trotted out as an excuse for any aspect of the totalitarian agenda.

    Lastly I am well aware there are NON Marxist aspects to the totalitarian agenda (Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development, Build Back Better).

    Tyranny (totalitarianism) is a lot older than Marxism – such writers as Saint-Simon were at work before Karl Marx was even born.

    And “Covid 19” and “the environment” are only the latest excuses that the forces of tyranny use.

    Historically the central propaganda line of the forces of evil was not “Covid 19” or “the environment” – their central tool was the claim they would bring PEACE.

    Give all your basic rights, all your fundamental liberties, and there will be PEACE – that was the traditional line of attack.

    Rather harder to oppose than, say, the de facto nationalisation of land by President Obama – a nationalisation that most people (who are not ranchers or farmers – try running a ranch or farm without water, and try operating when the EPA has authority over any land with water on it) were not even aware of.

    By the way (warning – I am breaking a rule of the internet) – Mr Hitler did the same thing.

    Private ownership of land was reduced to a “legal fiction” in National Socialist Germany – as what you could do with the land was decided by the government.

    In this Chancellor Hitler was not following Karl Marx – he was following the ideas of an historically older German Collectivist, the philosopher Fichte.

    Again tyranny was not invented by Karl Marx – the ideas of evil have always been with us.

    For example, the Emperor Diocletian was doing all this totalitarian stuff (even telling every person what their life would be – from birth) almost two thousand years ago.

    Diocletian did not need to trot out the excuses of “Covid 19” or “the environment” he had the ancient excuse for evil – “peace”.

  • Paul Marks

    No Nicholas Gray.

    The Germans did have radar – indeed their radar sets were in some ways better than the British ones, and they did attack the British radar sites (although not enough).

    But it is true that Goring had bad judgement – partly due to his drug addiction (he was a Hunter Biden type).

    Nor did Mr Hitler attack via Belguim.

    Indeed that was exactly the 1914 tactic that he rejected.

    Mr Hitler made it look as if he was attacking through Belgium (as in 1914) – but it was a trick, he actually sent most of his forces in a thrust straight at France (the Ardennes offensive).

    The Germans attacked in this central thrust for days – without stopping (partly by the mass use of stimulants – which the Allies were not really using much in 1940).

    The French military had been warned by their own exercises that tanks could (not could not) be used in the woods and hills of the Ardennes – but they ignored the warnings. Including warnings by the head of GERMAN military intelligence (the Allies just could not believe that Admiral Canaris was secretly against the National Socialists)

    The German offensive was very narrow (like the thrust of a sword) – they could have been cut to pieces by air attack on that narrow front. But Allied air power was horribly mishandled.

    So where Allied tanks – the British and French had more tanks than the Germans did, but they were split up into “penny packets” and spread about over many hundreds of miles.

    The German tanks were kept together – as a “mailed fist” backed up by fast moving infantry (the Germans understood that in war “Slow = Dead”) and with lots of air power in close support (not scattered about at random – as the Allies seemed to treat their aircraft).

    The professionalism of the German army was very high – and men down to the most junior rank were encouraged to think for themselves (as odd as that might seem to those taught to think that the Germans were unthinking robots – they were not).

    As for France – it was crippled not just by incompetent generals, but a massive wave of Communist Party led strikes and sabotage.

    The Communist Party was in alliance with the Nazis in 1940 – and that was fatal for France.

    By the way – the Soviet Union also invaded Poland in 1939, it was not just Germany that invaded Poland.

    The Soviets invaded Poland, and they invaded Estonia, and Latvia and Lithuania, and they later occupied part of Romania and launched a savage invasion of Finland.

    But there was no Declaration of War on the Soviet Union by Britain or France in 1939 or in 1940.

    The influence of the Marxists in the West was already very strong.

    This could also be seen in American policy – Japan attacked America in 1941, but the vast majority of American resources were devoted to fighting Germany (not Japan), with only a small fraction of American resources being devoted to the Pacific war.

    Why? The answer is as simple as it is horrible – the reason that most American resources were devoted to fighting Germany rather than Japan, is that Germany was at war with the precious Soviet Union (so beloved by many American officials) and Japan was not at war with the Soviet Union.

    The British?

    The British officials sent supplies of aircraft and so on to the Soviet Union in 1941 which they denied to their own Empire in the Far East.

    This made the task of the Japanese in attacking Singapore and so on, much easier than it should have been.

    No modern aircraft, no tanks (at all), no area effect shells (contrary to the lies – the guns at Singapore could turn round, but if you just have armour piecing shells….) for Singapore, and on and on.

    The Empire troops in the Far East (including the Australians) were betrayed.

    The LIES make it worse.

    “We did not think tanks would work in the jungles” – the Japanese did not use tanks “in the jungles” they used them on the ROADS – and the British must have known the roads existed because THEY HAD BUILT THEM.

    “We thought these Buffalo aircraft would be good enough for the Japanese”.

    No you did NOT – as your own reports (from the time) said they would be no good.

    All in all the correct response is.

    Stop LYING you wretched establishment swine.

  • Paul Marks

    There were also just blunders.

    For example, the forces that Winston Churchill sent to Greece.

    Crete could have held (he was right about Crete it could have been held, although whether it was worth holding was debatable – and it was lost by gross military incompetence by the British commanders there, they were told to concentrate on holding the AIRFIELDS and they failed to do that), but mainland Greece was a hopeless cause.

    The British were actually winning in North Africa – the Italians had been almost totally driven out, but then the Prime Minister stupidly diverted large numbers of men and equipment to a hopeless operation in mainland Greece, that could not stop the Germans.

    That wasted men and equipment – and stalled the offensive in North Africa before the Italians had been totally driven out, which allowed the GERMANS to land and reinforce them.

    To be fair to the Prime Minister – he did save Greece from the Marxists in 1945, the last thing important thing he did before leaving office.

    And it was against a lot of pressure inside the Establishment to not upset our “friends” the Marxist Soviet Union.

  • Donald John Trump stakes out an “extreme” position (say “I am going to ban Tic Toc) as a basis for talks for what he really wants – which is something quite different.

    In this case President Trump never wanted to “ban Tic Toc” he wanted an end to People’s Republic of China control of it – which is what he has achieved. (Paul Marks, September 20, 2020 at 8:26 am)

    You may be right that ending Chinese control was the true aim. But a deal can begin as one of several possible deals – and one of Cummings’ points about Bismarck was that he “operated always on the principle of ‘keep two irons in the fire’”. From truly banning Tic-Tok to merely upping the reality-based Chinese-influence narrative that mocks the left’s Russian-influence narrative, Trump seems more set to gain rather than to lose by any outcome between now and the election.

    the reason that most American resources were devoted to fighting Germany rather than Japan, is that Germany was at war with the precious Soviet Union (so beloved by many American officials) and Japan was not at war with the Soviet Union.

    While the state department and elsewhere were indeed penetrated, the ‘Germany first’ plan was adopted before the US (and Japan) were in the war, and was strongly supported by Britain, because it made very good strategic sense. The wartime corruption of US popular attitudes by soviet agents of influence was real – but so were the valid reasons for ‘Germany first’ – including the importance of preventing Hitler from defeating the Soviet Union (or persuading it to accept a very harsh peace, as the communists had in 1918). We have good reason to know know that the first outcome did not happen and the second was very unlikely because Hitler wanted more than any peace could provide – but over and above the effect of the agents of influence, it was genuinely hard for the west’s leaders to feel sure of it at the time.

    BTW, if you read the reports of Japan’s Moscow-based diplomats (as you can in the ‘Magic’ decrypts that the US were making at the time), you can feel pretty sure that (unlike Ultra, whose results we gave to the Soviets and whose source Philby confirmed to them), some US secrets were not known to the Soviets. The Soviets would not have spoken as they sometimes did to the Japanese if they had known the US would read it.

    Just my 0.02p FWIW.

  • suburbanbanshee

    A lot of spyware is actually malware, and defending the US Internet is part of US defense.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – Niall there were a mixture of reasons.

    The Marxist influence in official American circles (sadly now much GREATER in 2020 than it was in 1941), also the British influence.The British declared war on Germany for invading Poland – the Soviet Union also invaded Poland (and other countries to) and Britain did NOT declare war (answers on a postcard). There may indeed have been much more leftist influence in France (which proved fatal in 1940 when the French Communist Party, on orders from Moscow, launched a massive wave of strikes and sabotage to help the Germans), but there was still a lot of leftist influence in Britain to.

    The military argument – yes there is one, although I still think that Asia and the Pacific were starved of resources, making the struggle against the Japanese much harder than it should have been.

    As for sending aid to the Soviets when British and British Empire and American forces were in desperate need – well that was just terrible.

    The Soviet Union had been an ally of Nazi Germany for two years and had invaded many countries (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, part of Romania..) and had murdered MILLIONS of civilians from 1917 onwards.

    Allied government knew all this. For example, the New Dealers tried to destroy the files of the old “Russian Section” of the State Department (when they recognised the Soviet Union in 1933) – but they not succeed. It is clear than the American government always knew about the murder of millions in the Soviet Union – and so did the British government.