Thursday, August 13, 2020

Donald Trump wants Tiktok ban – what’s behind it?

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SThe Internet has been dividing China and the West for years – but the separation has never been so clear as now, as America’s President Donald Trump has announced a ban on the Chinese video app Tiktok. He said he would ban Tiktok from the United States, he told journalists, on Saturday. The exact prohibition text is not yet available on Sunday, but Trump has already made one thing clear: Not even a sale to an American company will appease him.

Patrick Bernau

Responsible editor for business and “Money & More” of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Tiktok is not as strategically important as the network supplier Huawei, which supplies devices for fast cell phone networks. But Tiktok was the first company from China to acquire cultural significance in the West. It all started with an app called “Musical.ly”, founded in Shanghai and in Germany with four million users, which was also taken over by the Chinese company Bytedance, and which the app put on its own brand name Tiktok. In the beginning it was about short videos about music, lip-synchronized singing and a bit of dancing. In the meantime, the videos have become more and more creative, entertaining and complex. Spectacular stunts can be seen, little jokes and surprising video tricks. Sometimes there are many hours of work in a few seconds of short video. And sometimes Dieter Bohlen just shows how he falls into the water fully clothed while standing up paddling.

Dieter Bohlen in a Tiktok video

According to industry estimates, this attracts around one billion users per month, especially teenagers, and the app has already been downloaded two billion times – amounts that otherwise only pre-installed apps from Apple and Google or the apps from the Facebook group, such as Whatsapp and Instagram. The parent company Bytedance makes three billion dollars in sales. In the United States alone, 100 million monthly users are said to be active – almost a third of the population.

A Chinese company has never been so successful in Western culture

No Chinese company has excited so many teenagers before. Internet companies like Alibaba, Tencent or Baidu are among the most valuable companies in the world. The payment system of the messaging app Wechat is so successful that European retailers also have to use it if they want Chinese tourists as customers – but so far, none of the Chinese companies in the West has achieved more importance. Occasionally, the online retailer Alibaba tried to gain a foothold in Europe – so far, however, with limited success at best.

Political campaigns can now take place on Tiktok. A video became famous in which a 17-year-old denounced the situation of the Uighurs in China after a few sentences about make-up tips. Your access was soon deleted. Tiktok apologized for a human error and unlocked it. But it is not always just against the Chinese government. In America, Tiktok users agreed to reserve and expire tickets to an event by Donald Trump. Trump’s employees said they had received a million reservations – in fact, only 6,000 people came.

So there is the first company to celebrate greater success in Western culture from China – and it should be banned, the Internet is legally shared. However, Trump did not have to be personally offended so that the Chinese company Tiktok was eyed suspiciously in the United States, while the struggle for economic leadership in the world is rocketing between the two countries. So Tiktok has been trying for weeks to be as American as possible.

Tiktok has been American for weeks

The servers are not in China at all, the company says, the government there has no access. Tiktok doesn’t exist in China at all (the heavily censored sister app Douyin is available in the app stores there). In general, the company has locations all over the world, and 48 percent of the company was not owned by by dance, but in part by well-known American investment companies. In May, the American Kevin Mayer was hired as chief, who had been considered a candidate for the management of Disney but had not received the post.

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