TikTok asked to pledge allegiance to U.S. security over corporate profits. To avoid being banned, TikTok might have to give the government “unprecedented control over essential functions that it does not have over any other major free speech platform,” reports Forbes, which reviewed a draft agreement between the company and the feds from last summer.
The situation is sadly ironic, considering that the ostensible concern U.S. lawmakers have about TikTok is that it could be subject to too much government surveillance and control by the Chinese government.
Of course, U.S. lawmakers and politicians have never actually been strictly opposed to government snooping on digital communications or strong-arming tech companies. Just look at the Snowden revelations or the Facebook Files. They just don’t like it when they’re left out of the game.
And spreading unproven tales about how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might access TikTok’s U.S. user data served the dual purpose of stirring up anti-China sentiment (always a win for a certain strain of hawkish Republican) and giving American authorities a pretense to grab more control of TikTok themselves (a bipartisan desire).
The confidential draft agreement viewed by Forbes comes from summer 2022. It’s “nearly 100 pages long” and “contains comment exchanges between lawyers for ByteDance and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a group of federal agencies that investigates foreign investment in business deals that could threaten national interests,” notes Forbes:
The draft agreement, as it was being negotiated at the time, would give government agencies like the DOJ or the DOD the authority to:
• Examine TikTok’s U.S. facilities, records, equipment and servers with minimal or no notice,
• Veto the hiring of any executive involved in leading TikTok’s U.S. Data Security org,
• Order TikTok and ByteDance to pay for and subject themselves to various audits, assessments and other reports on the security of TikTok’s U.S. functions, and,
• In some circumstances, require ByteDance to temporarily stop TikTok from functioning in the United States.
And it gets worse:
The draft agreement would make TikTok’s U.S. operations subject to extensive supervision by an array of independent investigative bodies, including a third-party monitor, a third-party auditor, a cybersecurity auditor and a source code inspector. It would also force TikTok U.S. to exclude ByteDance leaders from certain security-related decision making, and instead rely on an executive security committee that would operate in secrecy from ByteDance. Members of this committee would be responsible first for protecting the national security of the United States, as defined by the Executive Branch, and only then for making the company money.
Ama Adams, a managing partner and CFIUS expert at Ropes & Gray, said that some of the government powers in the draft agreement were somewhat typical — including the right to inspect a company’s facilities and materials, and the use of a third-party monitor. But “setting up a structure that has allegiance to the United States — I’ve never seen language, per se, to that extent.”
Corporate structures that must put allegiance to government first—hmm, where have we heard of something like that before?
It seems that, once again, machinations to “protect” Americans from the CCP values some worry are being smuggled into the U.S. through TikTok videos is resulting in… America acting a lot like the CCP.
More from Forbes:
In one revealing comment exchange, attorneys for ByteDance explain to CFIUS that they have added language that prevents the government from demanding changes to TikTok’s recommendation algorithm simply because it recommended content that the government does not like.
“If this agreement would give the U.S. government the power to dictate what content TikTok can or cannot carry, or how it makes those decisions, that would raise serious concerns about the government’s ability to censor or distort what people are saying or watching on TikTok,” Patrick Toomey, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told Forbes.
It’s unclear how much the draft agreement has changed in the past year. After CFIUS demanded in March that ByteDance sell TikTok or find it banned, TikTok and CFIUS have gone quiet about where negotiations stand.
TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek told Forbes the company has “been working with CFIUS for well over a year to implement a national security agreement and have invested significant resources in implementing a firewall to isolate U.S. user data. Today, all new protected U.S. user data is stored in the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in the U.S. with tightly controlled and monitored gateways. We are doing more than any peer company to safeguard U.S. national security interests.”
Americans vote too much, argues Jerusalem Demsas at The Atlantic:
It’s always election season in America. Dozens of local contests are taking place across the country this month, from Montgomery, Alabama to the Mariana Ranchos County Water District in California. On August 8 alone, Custer County, Colorado held a recall election for a county commissioner; Ohio asked residents to consider a major ballot measure; and voters in Oklahoma weighed in on several ballot measures.
America has roughly 90,000 local governing bodies, and states do not—at least publicly—track all of the elections taking place on their watch, making an exhaustive accounting nearly impossible. …
Americans are used to pundits and civic leaders shaming them for low-turnout elections, as if they had failed a test of civic character. Voters are apathetic, parties don’t bother with the hard work of mobilization, and candidates are boring—or so the story goes. But this argument gets the problem exactly backwards. In America, voters don’t do too little; the system demands too much. We have too many elections, for too many offices, on too many days. We have turned the role of citizen into a full-time, unpaid job. Disinterest is the predictable, even rational response.
An abortion ban in Indiana is set to take effect within days. The Indiana Supreme Court held in June that a law banning abortion in most cases does not violate the Indiana constitution. Under the new law—the first to pass after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer—abortion will only be allowed 1) when continuing a pregnancy presents a serious risk to the mother’s life or health, 2) up to 12 weeks, if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or 3) up to 22 weeks when the fetus has a lethal anomaly.
On Monday, the Court denied an American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana request for a rehearing in the case. The denial “means the ban will take effect once a June 30 ruling upholding the ban is certified, a procedural step expected to take just days,” reports the Associated Press. “Indiana’s six abortion clinics stopped providing abortions late last month ahead of the ban officially taking effect.”
Another suit challenging the law—this one on religious freedom grounds—is still playing out.
• At least 46 close calls involving commercial airlines took place in July alone, according to a New York Times analysis of Federal Aviation Administration safety reports.
• “You’re an asshole, police chief,” said Joan Meyer, co-owner of the Marion County Record, as officers raided her house in conjunction with a questionable investigation into the paper. Meyer, 98, who died the day after the raid, did not mince words with the cops as they tore through her things. “Get out of my house. Stand outside,” she told them on video released yesterday by the paper.
• A federal appeals court says Alabama can start enforcing its ban on gender transition treatments for minors.
• Following last week’s criminal indictment in Georgia, former President Donald Trump “plans to turn himself in and be processed at the Fulton County jail on Thursday, following his agreement earlier Monday to a $200,000 bond and other release conditions,” reports CNN.
• “This year the Italian government, led by Giorgia Meloni—a hardline traditionalist who has long reiterated her view that a child should only be raised by heterosexual parents—began demanding that councils register only the biological parent” in same-sex couples, notes The Guardian. The move “plunged hundreds of families in Italy into legal limbo.”
• Should we be worried about “neurorights“?