DiscoverPost ReportsInside TikTok's extraordinary almost-deal with the U.S.
Inside TikTok's extraordinary almost-deal with the U.S.

Inside TikTok's extraordinary almost-deal with the U.S.

Update: 2024-06-031
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This episode of Post Reports delves into the ongoing legal battle surrounding TikTok's potential ban in the US. The episode reveals that TikTok, facing scrutiny over its Chinese ownership, proposed a deal to the Biden administration two years ago, known as Project Texas. This proposal included significant concessions, such as allowing the US government to select members of TikTok's US board, veto new hires, and monitor its source code. It even offered a kill switch, enabling the US to shut down TikTok if deemed a threat. However, the Biden administration rejected this proposal, citing ongoing national security concerns. The episode explores the reasons behind the government's decision, including skepticism about the effectiveness of the proposed measures and a reluctance to take on the responsibility of overseeing a complex tech company. The episode also discusses the legal challenges TikTok is facing, arguing that the government's proposed ban violates the First Amendment. The episode concludes by highlighting the significance of TikTok's proposal and the government's rejection, suggesting that it could strengthen TikTok's case in court and raise concerns about the government's approach to regulating foreign-owned tech companies.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the episode and its focus on the ongoing legal battle surrounding TikTok's potential ban in the US. It also highlights the episode's guest, Drew Harwell, a tech reporter at the Washington Post, who will provide insights into the case.

00:04:14
TikTok's Rise and Security Concerns

This Chapter explores the origins of the US government's concerns about TikTok, tracing them back to 2019 when TikTok's rapid rise to popularity sparked investigations into its Chinese ownership. The chapter discusses the government's anxieties about potential data privacy violations and Chinese government influence on the app's algorithm.

00:08:07
Project Texas: TikTok's Proposal

This Chapter delves into the details of TikTok's proposal to the Biden administration, known as Project Texas. The proposal included a range of concessions aimed at addressing the government's concerns, including allowing the US to control TikTok's US board, veto new hires, and monitor its source code. It also offered a kill switch, giving the US the power to shut down TikTok if deemed necessary. The chapter explores the rationale behind TikTok's drastic proposal and the reasons why the government ultimately rejected it.

00:13:20
The Government's Rejection and the Legal Battle

This Chapter examines the Biden administration's decision to reject TikTok's proposal and pursue a law that would force the app's Chinese parent company to sell TikTok or face a ban in the US. The chapter discusses the legal challenges TikTok is facing, arguing that the government's proposed ban violates the First Amendment. It also explores the potential impact of TikTok's proposal on the ongoing legal battle, suggesting that it could strengthen TikTok's case by highlighting the existence of a less restrictive alternative.

Keywords

TikTok
TikTok is a popular social media app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. It is known for its short-form videos, often featuring dance challenges, lip-syncing, and comedic skits. TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon, influencing popular music, memes, and trends. However, it has also faced scrutiny over its Chinese ownership, raising concerns about data privacy and potential Chinese government influence on the app's algorithm.

Project Texas
Project Texas was a proposal submitted by TikTok to the Biden administration in 2022, aimed at addressing national security concerns related to the app's Chinese ownership. The proposal included significant concessions, such as allowing the US government to select members of TikTok's US board, veto new hires, and monitor its source code. It also offered a kill switch, enabling the US to shut down TikTok if deemed a threat. The proposal was ultimately rejected by the Biden administration.

ByteDance
ByteDance is a Chinese technology company that owns TikTok. It is one of the world's most valuable startups and has been at the center of the controversy surrounding TikTok's potential ban in the US. The US government has expressed concerns about ByteDance's potential to access and share user data with the Chinese government.

First Amendment
The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and the right to petition the government. TikTok has argued that the government's proposed ban violates the First Amendment by suppressing a platform for free expression. The First Amendment is a central issue in the ongoing legal battle surrounding TikTok.

National Security
National security is a broad term that encompasses the protection of a nation's interests from threats, both domestic and foreign. The US government has cited national security concerns as the primary reason for its scrutiny of TikTok, arguing that the app's Chinese ownership poses a risk to user data and national security. The issue of national security is a complex and multifaceted one, often involving classified information and sensitive intelligence.

CIFIIS
CIFIIS stands for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. It is a government body that reviews foreign business deals for national security concerns. CIFIIS began investigating TikTok in 2019, marking a significant escalation in the government's scrutiny of the app.

Kill Switch
A kill switch is a mechanism that allows for the immediate shutdown or disabling of a system or device. In the context of TikTok, the proposed kill switch would have given the US government the power to shut down the app in the US if deemed a threat to national security. The concept of a kill switch raises questions about government control over private companies and the potential for censorship.

Oracle
Oracle is an American multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in Austin, Texas. It is a major player in the tech industry, providing database management systems, cloud engineering services, and other software solutions. TikTok proposed to partner with Oracle as part of Project Texas, using Oracle's servers to store American user data and allowing Oracle engineers to review TikTok's source code.

Data Privacy
Data privacy refers to the protection of personal information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. The US government has expressed concerns about TikTok's data privacy practices, particularly in relation to the potential for ByteDance to share user data with the Chinese government. Data privacy is a growing concern in the digital age, as individuals increasingly share personal information online.

Propaganda
Propaganda is the spread of information, often biased or misleading, to promote a particular viewpoint or agenda. The US government has expressed concerns about the potential for TikTok to be used as a tool for Chinese government propaganda, influencing users' opinions and perceptions. The issue of propaganda is a complex one, often involving the manipulation of information and the dissemination of biased narratives.

Q&A

  • What was TikTok's proposal to the Biden administration, and what did it include?

    TikTok proposed a deal called Project Texas, which involved significant concessions to address the government's national security concerns. This included allowing the US to control TikTok's US board, veto new hires, monitor its source code, and even have a kill switch to shut down the app if deemed a threat.

  • Why did the Biden administration reject TikTok's proposal?

    The Biden administration rejected the proposal, citing ongoing national security concerns. They were skeptical about the effectiveness of the proposed measures and reluctant to take on the responsibility of overseeing a complex tech company. They felt that even with these concessions, they couldn't fully trust the app.

  • What legal challenges is TikTok facing, and what is the basis for its argument?

    TikTok is suing the Department of Justice, arguing that the government's proposed ban violates the First Amendment. They claim that the government is suppressing a platform for free speech, which is a core constitutional right.

  • How could TikTok's proposal strengthen its case in court?

    The existence of Project Texas could strengthen TikTok's case by highlighting the existence of a less restrictive alternative that the government rejected. This could support their argument that the government is not using the least restrictive means to achieve its national security goals.

  • What are the broader implications of this case for the future of the internet and technology?

    This case raises concerns about the government's approach to regulating foreign-owned tech companies and the potential for limiting innovation and access to valuable services. It also highlights the challenges of navigating the complex relationship between national security and freedom of expression in the digital age.

Show Notes

TikTok offered the Biden administration a kill switch. Today on “Post Reports,” why the U.S. government declined.


Read more:


In 2022, TikTok offered the U.S. government an extraordinary deal

The social media app – owned by a Chinese company – said it would let federal officials pick its U.S. board of directors, would give the government veto power over each new hire and would pay an American company that contracts with the Defense Department to monitor its source code. 

The Biden administration, however, went its own way

Today on “Post Reports,” tech reporter Drew Harwell takes host Elahe Izadi behind the scenes of the U.S. government’s decision to pass on TikTok’s proposal. 

Today’s show was produced by Rennie Svirnovskiy. It was edited by Lucy Perkins and mixed by Sean Carter. 

Subscribe to The Washington Post here and check out this story about the health consequences of loud restaurants.

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Inside TikTok's extraordinary almost-deal with the U.S.

Inside TikTok's extraordinary almost-deal with the U.S.

The Washington Post