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REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Information warfare.

A US ban on TikTok is perfectly in line with China’s dream of cyber sovereignty

Jane Li
Member exclusive by Jane Li

The White House is signaling that it may soon bar TikTok from the US—its first ever ban of a foreign online platform—in “weeks not months.”

Just days after president Donald Trump said this month he was “looking at” banning TikTok, owned by Beijing-based social media giant ByteDance, trade adviser Peter Navarro reinforced the message, saying he expects the president to take “strong action” against it and other Chinese apps. And over the weekend, the president’s campaign began running ads urging people to sign a petition to ban the short video app over concerns it puts the data of its US users at risk of misuse by China’s Communist Party.

While a backlash against Chinese technology has been underway for a while, a complete ban like this would be unprecedented for the US. Previously, Trump’s ire was mostly directed at Chinese hardware firms like telecom equipment giants Huawei and ZTE, and the administration had cited specific legal infringements to kneecap those companies. To shut out platforms based on their national origin, many worry, would suggest that Beijing’s vision of a fragmented, tightly controlled internet—a model it calls “cyber sovereignty“—is triumphing over the vision of a loosely regulated open internet that the US has championed.

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