TechTank: Should Trump Ban TikTok and WeChat?

Nicol Turner Lee, Darrell West
Friday, September 18, 2020, 9:43 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

On June 20th, President Donald Trump showed up in Tulsa, Oklahoma for his first campaign rally after a three-month hiatus. Before the rally, the Trump campaign bragged about the million tickets that had been pre-requested. But when the rally started only 6200 people showed up at the arena, and the President addressed a sea of empty chairs. Politically active young people used TikTok to encourage others to reserve tickets but not show up, thereby forcing Trump to play to an empty room.

Soon thereafter, President Trump released an Executive Order banning Chinese applications TikTok and WeChat in the United States and ordering TikTok’s sale to an American company. He argued the companies could release personal data to the Chinese government and therefore represented a national security threat. TikTok now is in talks with Oracle for the sale of its American operations.

In this episode, we address the broader issues represented by these presidential actions and whether they signal a trend toward a fractured internet divided by national boundaries and security fears. If the President makes good on his order to ban these applications or force TikTok to be sold to a US firm, will the concept of an open, borderless internet vanish? These are the crucial questions that will shape the future of the internet and U.S. tech policy.

You can listen to the episode and subscribe to the TechTank podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Acast. And be sure to sign up for the bi-weekly TechTank newsletter to stay up to date on the latest research and analysis from the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee is a senior fellow in Governance Studies, the director of the Center for Technology Innovation, and serves as Co-Editor-In-Chief of TechTank. Dr. Turner Lee researches public policy designed to enable equitable access to technology across the U.S. and to harness its power to create change in communities across the world. Her work also explores global and domestic broadband deployment and internet governance issues. She is an expert on the intersection of race, wealth, and technology within the context of civic engagement, criminal justice, and economic development.
Darrell M. West is vice president and director of Governance Studies and holds the Douglas Dillon Chair. He is Co-Editor-in-Chief of TechTank. His current research focuses on artificial intelligence, robotics, and the future of work. West is also director of the John Hazen White Manufacturing Initiative.

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