Tim Wu: ‘A TikTok Ban Is Overdue’

Tim Wu, writing at The New York Times:

In China, the foreign equivalents of TikTok and WeChat — video and messaging apps such as YouTube and WhatsApp — have been banned for years. The country’s extensive blocking, censorship and surveillance violate just about every principle of internet openness and decency. China keeps a closed and censorial internet economy at home while its products enjoy full access to open markets abroad.

The asymmetry is unfair and ought no longer be tolerated. The privilege of full internet access — the open internet — should be extended only to companies from countries that respect that openness themselves

Agreed. Wu addresses the fact that Trump is almost certainly wrong in his reasons for opposing TikTok, but even then he’s ultimately right in the “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” sense. We — not just the United States but the entire free world — are being played as suckers by China. You’re either part of the open internet or you’re not — and China wants no part of the open internet.

The idea that being exposed to the internet would inevitably help open China was a reasonable and well-intentioned theory, but it was obviously wrong. Allowing China to export its own internet services while it blocks all of the services from the rest of the world is both dangerous and dumb. They’re using the internet to export authoritarianism, not to import democracy and liberalism.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020