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Friday September 18, 2020 |Notes

TikTok/WeChat ban may trigger new tech landscape

The TikTok & WeChat app banning today was unexpected after the recent news of the seemingly politically motivated hosting deal with Oracle. While China has previously blocked some of the largest US-based tech apps, this is the first move in the other direction and could have widely impactful changes.

Most tech giants operate on a multinational scale and have had relatively free access to a majority of the world's consumer markets. Notably, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China.

Many other tech companies have a friendly relationship with China. Apple produces the majority of its products in China and simultaneously counts the country among it biggest consumer markets. Google offers a filtered version of its search engine for China. And Amazon continually works to make inroads into the consumer market, while also heavily relying on the country's immense manufacturing capabilities.

In the short term, this move has the potential to reduce security by not allowing for updates. The dates appears to have less to do with security and more to do with the "right deal" coming together.

The U.S. Commerce Department has now announced the details of how it will enforce the shutdown of TikTok and WeChat in the country, after announcing in August plans to do so by September 20 over national security concerns. The news is structured along two dates, September 20 and November 12. Both apps and their app updates will no longer be distributed in U.S. app stores as of September 20. But TikTok specifically gets an extension on how it operates until November 12.

That not only keeps it up until after the November 3 U.S. election, but leaves the door open for it to complete a complicated deal with Oracle and partners to take control of its U.S. operations without an interruption in service.

There's a strong chance a deal is still made here because the opportunity for TikTok in the US in enormous. And while security threats certainly should not be ignored, regardless of where they originate, it's hard to ignore the changes afoot in international tech regulation. At the TechCrunch article linked above goes on to note:

TikTok and WeChat are not the only app removals announced overnight. In India, one of the most popular payment apps in the country — Paytm — has been removed from Google’s Play Store for “repeat policy violations.” The app has tens of millions of monthly users. In late June, the country also announced a list of 59 apps developed by Chinese companies that would be banned, including TikTok.

Such national fights over the future of technology have increasingly come to a head as tech drives a larger segment of the global economy and increasingly becomes intertwined with competing national interests.

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