My piece on TikTok Ban: “Possible US ban on TikTok could deal a major blow to the fight for internet freedom

This piece was originally published in Turkish. It was translated with DeepL to English.

Possible US ban on TikTok could deal a major blow to the fight for internet freedom.

The possibility of TikTok being banned in the US has been on the agenda for a while. Prof. Erkan Saka from Bilgi University Faculty of Communication evaluated the developments in terms of the struggle for internet freedom.

Prof. Erkan Saka / Academician

May 4, 2024


After the United States (US) Senate approved a controversial bill that could lead to the banning of TikTok in the country, US President Joe Biden signed the bill before him.

The law gives TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance nine months to sell its shares. As the company is preparing to appeal the process, it is unlikely that the app will be shut down in the US in the near term. But it is this process that the whole world is eagerly following, knowledge  ecosystemIn today’s transformation of Turkey, the internet brings with it some debates whose impact cannot be ignored.

Cyber sovereignty against the global internet

The prospect of a TikTok ban in the United States is moving in a way that vindicates China’s position in the internet policy debate, which has been intensifying since the 2010s.

Since the early 2000s, a group of authoritarian countries, led by China, has been promoting the idea of national sovereignty, or cyber sovereignty, over the Internet. At the 2012 Conference on Cyber Issues in Budapest, China proposed five principles for international cooperation in cyberspace he suggestedThe first was the principle of sovereignty, which defends the right of each state to determine its own internet policy. In this context, instead of a “global internet”, China has opted for a “single, borderless worldwide network”, where each country maintains its own national internet with its own border controls and internet” model. In contrast, Western countries and internet activists, led by the US, emphasized the importance of universal values on the internet. China, which saw the internet as we know it as a contested space due to the US’s global influence on the internet, wanted to incorporate its vision of “internet sovereignty” into international law.

It seems that the idea of the global internet model, of which the US was the main proponent, has started to unravel as US brands have lost their global dominance. Especially with a Chinese social media platform gaining a significant market share in the US itself, the global internet model as we know it has come to an end. The behavior of US Congress members and the reactions of some senators bring to mind “authoritarian” politicians who have been speaking out against internet freedom for years.

In this article, I will address the arguments against the TikTok ban, but it is worth noting in advance that US politicians no longer have much to say about other countries’ internet policies. What is happening is taking away an important patron of the fight for internet freedom.

Proponents of TikTok ban cite data breaches and national interests

When the arguments of the proponents of the ban are analyzed, the following conclusion emerges: They are concerned that TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, could be used by the Chinese government to collect US citizens’ data and influence their beliefs, posing a national security risk. By forcing ByteDance to leave TikTok or face a ban, the bill approved by President Biden aims to protect US citizens’ data from potential Chinese government interference and prevent the app from being used for malicious purposes. Supporters of the law point to a past case: Grindr dating app was sold by Beijing Kunlun Tech Co. to US-based investors. TikTok could likewise be owned by a company not subject to foreign government control and operate on a “level playing field” with its US competitors. The enactment of the law is ultimately a way to protect US interests by preventing a foreign company from dominating the social media ecosystem and potentially using that dominance to shape US views and beliefs. as Showing.


Opponents say internet freedom is under threat

Of course, there are arguments against this banning process. In fact, an attempt to ban TikTok a few years ago was blocked by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Opponents argue that the legislation violates the rights of TikTok users because it violates the First Amendment rights of TikTok users, because it violates the First Amendment rights of TikTok users to use a platform that is an important means of expression and communication. access to that it restricts they defend. The ban has unintended consequences such as loss of jobs, economic damage to the tech industry and potential migration to alternative platforms that are not subject to the same level of scrutiny can open foreseen. As long as alternative platforms are based in the U.S., I don’t think proponents of the ban will care. Some critics argue that the legislation does not address the fundamental issues of data privacy and security and that the ban may not be an effective solution to these problems. defends which is not surprising. If the proponents of the ban wanted to find an effective solution, TikTok would not be their only target.

Ultimately, if the Snowden revelations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal hadn’t happened, it might have been easier for the public to adopt this security logic, but the process has brought us to a banal, international battlefield where the emphasis on freedom has been overshadowed.

Authoritarian regimes did not need US leadership to ban it, but…

As Professor Milton Mueller, a public policy researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, explains in detail Prohibition. Authoritarian regimes did not need the leadership of the US to ban it, but a ban coming from the US with similar excuses used by authoritarian regimes encourages decision-makers in other countries. Turkey is a country that will not be left behind in this regard. Recently, after the Competition Authority’s decision to withdraw Threads, owned by Meta, from Turkey, the banning of TikTok, which is a means of expression for many citizens, is back on the agenda (also based on the US example). arrived. Some readers may not see TikTok as a medium of expression, but how you shape the algorithm determines the content you receive. TikTok does this well, if not transparently. For example, TikTok made it possible to see pro-Palestinian protests around the world (which other media restricted). One of the channels that brought the most images from the earthquake zone was TikTok. It was TikTok…

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