The TikTok Tea: How Controversy Morphed Into a Foreign Policy Issue
If you’ve been following the controversy surrounding TikTok, a seemingly harmless video-editing app beloved by Gen-Z (and many millennials), you’ll know that up until quite recently, the Chinese app was up for sale and being courted by Microsoft.
It appears that deal has fallen through, and a new one with tech company Oracle, is in the works and set to close. However, the word “sale” is an interesting choice since – after a closer look – it’s not really a sale at all.
This swift pivot to an Oracle partnership comes right in time for TikTok employees and users- the original deadline given by the Trump administration was set for tomorrow, September 15. And, after months of debate around the ramifications of Chinese ownership and access to US citizen data as reasons for a sale, Oracle’s “trusted tech partner” status with TikTok seems weird and potentially vague on purpose.
According to The Verge, the partnership essentially is more ceremonial than anything else:
“it’s unlikely Oracle is taking over any significant operations from the US TikTok offices. Microsoft’s version of the deal would have severed American TikTok from Europe and Asia entirely, but Oracle’s version of the deal leaves it mostly intact. US TikTok will stay the same as Korean TikTok and Nigerian TikTok; it’s just getting an extra babysitter.”
It seems fully dystopian when you really unpack what’s going on. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has been negotiating with both Chinese and US officials in an effort to find a work-around from the current stalemate – but it looks more and more like China would rather have the app be banned in the United States entirely than appear to be bending to the US’s whims. A recent report by Reuters states:
Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington.
I don’t know about you, but it’s bizarre to see an app responsible for birthing a new wave of internet celebrities and influencers (see Charlie D’amelio, Dixie D’amelio, Addison Rae, and many more) – would suddenly become a matter of international political debate.
So what triggered Trump’s Executive Order calling for the ban or sale of TikTok in the US? There’s plenty of speculation as to why the current administration is calling for TikTok’s head on a platter – from matters of data sharing and security issues to more er, childish reasons, one being TikTok’s hand in the lack of attendance at a Trump rally earlier this summer.
In case you missed it, Gen-Zers used the platform to urge fellow Tokers to reserve tickets to a Trump rally in Tulsa, thus causing 45 to walk into a virtually empty arena. Among those who reserved fraudulent seats was Gen-Z activist and BlogHer speaker Naomi Wadler, who shared on our virtual stage at #BlogHer20 Creators Summit that she had fun being a part of this quiet form of activism. “I felt really proud of everything we had done – even though it might not be the most political step, the impact it had visually was powerful.”
Watch Naomi’s entire interview on Gen-Z activism, alongside fellow activist and “Little Fires Everywhere” star Lexi Underwood. Oh, and breathe a sigh of relief- your TikTok content isn’t going anywhere…for now.