Until recently, a few US-based companies such as Facebook and Google dominated the huge digital platform market. However, as foreign governments and competing platforms attempt to undermine this dominance, the platforms have become a new field of geopolitical maneuver.
The European Union wants to gain more control over international technology companies and Arrive More independence in the digital arena. India has it Prohibited 177 Chinese applications on the grounds that they “violate the sovereignty and integrity of India.”
And in 2020, then-US President Donald Trump spent months trying to ban the Chinese-made video-sharing platform TikTok or force it to sell to an American owner. While some have claimed Trump was upset supposed to a joke Against him by teenage TikTok users, a look at statements by US government officials appears throughout the year Geopolitical concerns were the main driver.
If “digital nationalism” continues to lead governments, it is likely that the large US-based tech companies will continue to dominate.
TikTok is the first major non-American platform
TikTok was the first social media platform born outside of the United States to become a significant competitor to incumbent Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook and Instagram. The short video platform rose to prominence in 2019, and by early 2020, it was Most downloaded Application globally.
Since its rise, TikTok has been undergoing a collapse Severe criticism From governments around the world, who question whether ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, is adequately protecting user data against Chinese state access.
However, the way TikTok handles user data is Not much different Than their American counterparts do. There is little to suggest that the platform poses any individual threat to national security.
TikTok’s Chinese origins can be used to simplify the platform’s actual regional connection to China. ByteDance is incorporated in China but incorporated in the Cayman Islands and operates as a multinational company with subsidiaries in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore.
The background to Trump’s stance toward TikTok has been an intense competition between the United States and China over the strategic value of the digital environment. Who gets economic value from the platform economy? Who can exert ideological influence through broad social and technical systems? Who enjoys the strategic benefits of controlling and accessing data and infrastructure?
As global technology platforms have evolved today, they have largely reflected the shape of classic geopolitics: the United States dominated. But recently, Chinese technology companies have boomed, expanding China’s economic and strategic capabilities.
Trump TikTok Challenge
Teens on TikTok may have pulled off Trump’s joke, but his actions and rhetoric fit into a geopolitical agenda penned by others within the administration.
On June 24, 2020, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien Speak out On the topic of “The Chinese government’s ideology and global ambitions.” He warned that China was a threat to US citizens and openly alluded to TikTok’s involvement.
On July 31, 2020, Trump announced that he was Planning To block TikTok.
Several days later, Microsoft released a statement clarifying that its representatives had spoken to Trump directly regarding the Acquisition of TikTok. When asked about his conversations with Microsoft, Trump said:
[…] It cannot be controlled, for security reasons, by China. Too big, too oppressive, and it just couldn’t be.
On August 5, 2020, the US State Department announced Advertise Expanding the Clean Network program, which aims to “protect the privacy of our citizens and the most sensitive information of our companies from aggressive interference by malicious actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party”.
Expansions to the program included five policies aimed at limiting China’s presence in the United States. These policies have limited Chinese telecom companies’ use of apps sold in app stores and pre-installed on devices, cloud services, and undersea cables.
The next day, Trump issued a note Executive order Force the sale of TikTok to a US company on the grounds that TikTok poses a threat to “national security, foreign policy, and the United States economy”.
Ultimately Trump’s executive orders were blocked in the courts, the bans and compulsory sales were not enforced.
The rise of digital nationalism
TikTok provides a welcome competition to the platform’s occupants. If real competition in this sector increases, which requires existing platforms to compete for users, we may see more innovations in the platform market and a less focused technology sector.
But so far, the US government has focused explicitly on the geopolitical implications of the rise of the Chinese program. It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will continue this course.
Both the United States and China have a long history of protecting strategically important industries. For those interested in increasing competition and loosening the concentrated power of the dominant tech companies, the rise of digital nationalism presents a new obstacle.
Going forward, policymakers may need to overcome national impulses if they are to increase global competition in the international platform market. Both the American and Chinese rulings must be rejected if the decentralization of power within the digital environment is to be achieved.