As readers likely remember, a Chinese spy balloon was shot down over South Carolina earlier this year. The incident was surely an embarrassment for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), particularly as video of the balloon coming down went viral…on TikTok. So, while anecdote is just that, it’s notable that something so CCP-damning was allowed to run to the tune of millions of views on a site that U.S. conservatives like Rep. Mike Gallagher claim is run by the CCP.
It’s something to think about as TikTok goes out of its way to placate conservatives hell bent on banning it. To show how far it’s willing to go, TikTok has indicated that it will hand over authority of its U.S. operations to a three-person board that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) would loom large in the selection of.
On its face, such a concession is disturbing, and realistically chilling. Think about it, and in thinking about it, never forget that government is a bit of an ass. Sorry, but it’s true. Conservatives have rightly said as much for decades. They’ve ranted for years about CCP types enjoying substantial oversight over TikTok, only for them to pursue arrogation of their own oversight? Which is an implicit suggestion that big government isn’t so bad if it’s conservatives in control? Don’t worry, it gets worse.
Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell has seen the “draft agreement” of TikTok’s plan to placate the U.S. political class, and it “would grant the U.S. government unprecedented authority” over TikTok’s U.S. operations, and the authority would be “far more restrictive than anything officials have ever sought over the company’s American peers.” Which requires a pause. Please stop and think about this, and in thinking about it, readers would be wise to look back to March of 2020 and beyond. It was then that federal officials went to great lengths to make sure that Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter (among others) didn’t allow postings skeptical about the dominant coronavirus narratives.
This is all of utmost importance given another popular view among conservatives that if left alone, an allegedly CCP-guided TikTok would act as a popular propaganda arm for – you guessed it- the CCP. Who cares that TikTok’s viewing model means that user preference dictates what the user sees, plus who cares that a business with 150 million users is logically not government run (please name anything government operated that’s popular…tick tock, tick tock…) as is?
Stop and think about what American officials are seeking: rather than allow what’s always been nothing more than a speculation about CCP oversight of TikTok, U.S. officials are in the process of making control from the proverbial American Commanding Heights official such that Americans tied to its federal government would get to “subtly shape what TikTok users see,” the CFIUS-approved board “would report solely to the federal government, not ByteDance,” plus “CFIUS monitoring agencies” would “have the right to access TikTok facilities at any time and overrule its policies or contracting decisions.” Meet the new boss, nothing like the alleged old boss. The American one makes the previous ones in Beijing appear Jon Cowperthwaite by comparison.
Which is the point. Conservatives have long made their anti-TikTok case all about repelling Chinese authoritarianism from these shores, only for American conservatives to demand much worse. It’s well past time that conservatives take a step back, and then truly step back. Limited government and freedom are societal virtues without peer. Conservatives would be wise to act like what's true is actually true.