In the article “Who’s afraid of TikTok? The world’s most exciting app is also its most mistrusted,” published on July 7, The Economist warned that the Chinese ownership of TikTok — a popular short-form video-sharing social media platform that has swept the world and is taking over the market shares of other social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram — is a serious concern.
Headquartered in China, whose government is addicted to surveillance and propaganda, the bigger problem with TikTok is the opportunity it provides the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to access users’ private information and manipulate what the app’s vast foreign audience sees.
India banned TikTok for allegedly stealing Indian users’ information and surreptitiously sending it to China.
With many countries on alert, is Taiwan, which is on the front line of China’s hegemonic expansion, prepared for technology like TikTok?
The Economist article said that TikTok is quickly catching up to its peers, and is growing much faster than other platforms. Last year, it reached the milestone of 1 billion users, which it achieved in four years, compared with the eight years it took Facebook, YouTube and Instagram to reach that level.
The short-video format has caught the attention of young people, with about 44 percent of TikTok users in the US younger than 25, while only 16 percent of Facebook users are younger than 25.
That TikTok was founded in China and under the jurisdiction of the CCP also poses risks. With more and more people watching videos and posting personal information on the platform, the CCP has the power to decide what content can appear and what should not appear, in addition to the possibility of obtaining user data.
China’s “united front” tactics against Taiwan are pervasive. In addition to Beijing’s intimidation and saber rattling against Taipei, its influence on the Internet should also be taken seriously.
For example, Taiwanese Facebook posts are censored by the Chinese, and terms such as “Wuhan pneumonia” (武漢肺炎) or criticisms of China might be banned. This directly interferes with the freedom of speech of Taiwanese.
Furthermore, as the app’s algorithm decides which videos are pushed to users, the operators of TikTok, with its technology in the hands of Chinese companies, control the content that people can see.
Under these circumstances, passing the National Communications Commission’s digital intermediary services act has become even more important. In addition to taking back the right to review content on social media platforms, the act regulates the openness and transparency of online platforms. Protecting Taiwan’s freedom of speech from foreign interference is one of the main aims of the bill.
Pan Kuan was a participant in the Sunflower movement.
Translated by Lin Lee-Kai
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty
I live in Taiwan because, like many foreigners, I fell in love with and chose to align my life with a Taiwanese. In an era where personal freedoms are mandatorily ceded to government decree, I am thankful to the Taiwanese government for the spousal visa, as well as the lack of demeaning bureaucratic hoops and hurdles needed to get a work permit, residency permit and healthcare. However, if I then choose to attempt citizenship, this enlightened attitude spasms to seizure, culminating in what appears to be blatant xenophobia. In contrast to Western countries, the path to citizenship mandates a protracted period