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Already targeted by an EU investigation for a controversial feature, TikTok faces an ultimatum from Washington: China or the USA

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar May12,2024

 Already targeted by EU investigation for feature controversial, TikTok faces Washington's ultimatum: China or the USA

Unsplash TikTok

In Europe as in the United States, TikTok is in turmoil. The social network is threatened by a ban on American soil, after the adoption by Congress on Tuesday April 23 of a law requiring a “cut” of its links with China and its parent company, ByteDance. 

The day after the vote of American representatives, the text of which was promulgated by President Joe Biden, TikTok announces the “voluntary” suspension of a very controversial functionality of its “Lite” application, which allowed users to receive rewards in return time spent watching videos. The American maneuver comes shortly before the visit of Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Beijing, to continue reconciliation efforts, against the backdrop of a trade war.

This ultimatum from the Americans to the Chinese social network was among the texts already put to the vote last Saturday, concerning very important aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Tuesday, the law requiring TikTok to cut all ties with its parent company, ByteDance and China, was in turn adopted by the Senate. In the process, the tenant of the White House, Joe Biden, who recently again expressed his “concern” during an exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, expressed his eagerness to promulgate it. It is now done, Wednesday April 24.

“I love you, me neither”

Now in force, the text requires the Chinese company ByteDance to sell, within 12 months, its flagship application, TikTok. Otherwise, this application for sharing short musical videos would be excluded from the Apple and Google stores on American soil.

Such a decision is highly contestable in court and for the social network, it is a “violation of the freedom of expression of 170 million Americans”. As for Beijing, the spokesperson for its diplomacy, Wang Wenbin, just recalled, on Wednesday, “China’s principled position” on this issue.

His counterpart at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, He Yadong, had already urged Washington in March to “respect the rules of the market economy”, affirming that his country “would take all necessary measures to preserve its legitimate rights and interests”. /p>

Under Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Washington is not letting go of TikTok, despite the latest efforts between the United States and China for reconciliation. This resulted in the numerous trips of the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, to China, followed by those of Xi Jinping to San Francisco, which led to a resumption of contacts between the two armies and cooperation in the fight against the manufacture of fentanyl, which is wreaking havoc among drug addicts in the United States.

These trips were followed by that, at the beginning of April, by that of the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, who did not hesitate to threaten Beijing with “significant consequences” if its Chinese companies provide aid to Russia and its defense industry, particularly in the Ukrainian conflict.

A question that the Secretary of State will not fail to raise with Chinese leaders, to whom he will plead restraint in the face of Taiwan, which is preparing to take over its new president. Washington also intends to denounce Beijing's “anti-competitive commercial practices”.

The noose tightens on TikTok

The “reconciliation” between the two superpowers translates much more into a trade war, which Joe Biden fueled in early April by accusing the Chinese aluminum and steel sectors of “cheating” thanks to significant subsidies, promising to raise customs duties for these products.

Can ByteDance bank on this visit by Blinken to China to avoid the ban on TikTok by Washington? Nothing is less certain and the social network, also a target of the European Commission, is not at the end of its troubles. Wednesday, theapplication announced that it had “voluntarily” suspended a feature of its “Lite” application, which rewards users for time spent watching videos or reacting to content. These are virtual tokens, convertible into Amazon gift cards.

TikTok reacted with this suspension of Lite to the opening of an investigation by the European Union. Brussels fears that this reward system will make the social network too addictive. The Chinese application was ordered to respond to the EU's concerns by Thursday but ByteDance did not comply with this request for a “risk assessment”, in accordance with its obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA). /p>

“Our children are not guinea pigs for social networks”, reacted the European Commissioner for Digital, Thierry Breton, to the announcement of TikTok, already targeted by another investigation. This criticizes the application for a lack of transparency in terms of the protection of minors.


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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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