Let me translate Mr. Stamos’ geekspeak: If there’s a will to make a TikTok dance video go viral, there’s a way.
And that’s why the United States should support an open internet that touts democratic values using sophisticated strategy, smart policy and large investments in research and innovation, as well as some well-placed cudgels. But it seems that Mr. Trump would, rather than governing, prefer to make loud declarations to reporters and on Twitter.
Unlike other executive orders he has issued related to tech — like his toothless effort to eliminate immunity protections under the Communications Decency Act — Mr. Trump’s arsenal here has more bite and includes stronger national security levers. He could, for example, block TikTok from app stores in the United States. Or he could bar American businesses from selling goods and services to it without a license. In this, TikTok would have little recourse other than to cease operating through its app.
Such pressure is obviously best used to force a sale, as was done with the gay dating service Grindr, to a United States company. And that’s why the Microsoft deal to acquire TikTok makes a lot of sense. With its strong tech security chops, Microsoft is one of the handful of U.S. companies with experience in managing big and complex platforms (besides the massive Windows and Office franchises, the company also owns LinkedIn, Skype and Minecraft).
While there are other American tech giants — Amazon and Apple spring to mind — that could also take on the Chinese security threat, a Microsoft-owned TikTok could also create a healthy and suspicion-free rival to Facebook in the social media space. And Microsoft would fix security issues quicker than taking TikTok public as a U.S. company.
“They should take the Microsoft deal,” Mr. Stamos noted. “It’s the best outcome for the United States, as Microsoft has one of the best security teams in tech, as it prevents a fight over the basic freedom of Americans to use the open Web.”
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump will get in the way again, as he is pushed and pulled by various members of his staff. If he does, it’s a tell — that the president cares little about actual smart solutions and more about sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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