TikTok and WeChat: Will the US end the ‘global internet’ era with its Chinese policy?
TikTok and WeChat: Will the US end the ‘global internet‘ era with its Chinese policy? – Behind US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that he wants a “clean” internet, there is an intention to exclude Chinese influence and Chinese companies from the US internet world.
But there is concern that this step could open up debate about the nature of the internet being global.
The term” Splinternet ” (divided internet) adorns conversations about China and, most recently, Russia. This concept represents the notion that the nature of the internet being Global is now coming to an end.
For governments that want to control what people can find on the internet, that means having their own internet.
The best example of a country building a wall around its own internet is the Great Wall of security in China. You won’t be able to access Google search engine or Facebook in China.
What is surprising here is that the United States is following the path that China has led. “China-based practices produce viruses, spread propaganda, and misinformation,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said it was pursuing removing those apps from mobile app stores in the US, which it described as” unreliable.”
The first question that comes to mind is: Which of the Chinese apps does Pompeo trust? It is possible to assume that it is all China-based practices that he actually finds unreliable.
‘Balkanization Of The Internet’
According to Alan Woodward, a security expert at the University of Surrey, this means “Balkanisation” of the internet:
“The U.S. government has for many years criticized other countries for controlling access to the internet. We see that now the Americans are doing the same thing.”
This comment can be seen as a bit of an exaggeration. After all, Pompeo’s motives for purging Chinese companies from the US internet are very different from the way authoritarian governments control the internet.
But it’s true that U.S. cyber policies could go back decades if Pompeo follows that path.
The United States is a pioneer in the free internet, based on freedom of expression as a constitutional principle.
US President Donald Trump is taking a different path, somewhat due to legitimate security concerns stemming from Chinese companies operating in the country.
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, describes and adds that the much-cited TikTok is the “tip of the iceberg” among Chinese apps to be worried about:
“TikTok is not even on my top 10 list.”
The app that the US should be on the lookout for is Tencent-owned WeChat messaging app, according to Stamos:
“WeChat is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. People run companies through WeChat. They have extremely sensitive information.”
Pompeo also commemorates WeChat’s name among potential targets.
It’s hard to say that all this has nothing to do with the US election on November 3. Trump’s anti-China rhetoric is not about technology.
So is this a political position, or is it just a stance?
It is, of course, possible for Trump to lose the election. Democrats may approach Chinese companies more modestly.
But Trump’s vision to create a “U.S. internet” free of China makes the issue open to more serious debate.
Ironically, the internet is going to look more like the Chinese version in this case.
Just look at TikTok. If Microsoft bought TikTok’s arm in the US, we would see three different TikTok in the middle: TikTok in China (called Douyin), TikTok in the US, and TikTok in the rest of the world.
Could this be a model for the Internet of the future?