The one thing my students all invariably know about China is that you can’t use Facebook there, or YouTube or Google. For at least a decade, China has maintained strict control over the internet and aggressively blocked foreign tech platforms within its borders.
So when President Trump issued two executive orders Thursday night that all but ban two Chinese social media networks — the video app TikTok and the messaging app WeChat — from operating in the United States, citing national security concerns, the decision seemed straight out of China’s own playbook.
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Is TikTok More of a Parenting Problem Than a Security Threat?
TikTok has long presented a parenting problem, as millions of Americans raising preteens and teenagers distracted by its viral videos can attest. But when the C.I.A. was asked recently to assess whether it was also a national security problem, the answer that came back was highly equivocal.
Yes, the agency’s analysts told the White House, it is possible that the Chinese intelligence authorities could intercept data or use the app to bore into smartphones. But there is no evidence they have done so, despite the calls from President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to neutralize a threat from the app’s presence on millions of American devices.