The romantic era of social media- presuming that we agree that anything like that ever existed – is over. For good. And social media platforms progressively acquire observable dimensions that diverse from lucrative giveaway businesses for Instagram models, who, most probably, do not have what it takes to become real-life ones, giving them the (yet profitable) illusion of success and mass appeal, to a modern pawn set strategically on the geopolitical chessboard, having equal importance as any other traditional political tool.
Following mounting tensions over a disputed border in the Himalayas between India and China that climaxed with a deadly confrontation, the former populous country, with a statement that reflected national security concerns, banned TikTok amongst nearly 60 Chinese applications, as “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”, accusing the latter not simply for users’ data misuse, but indirectly for national-level espionage.
China, has since long ago faced accusations of censoring videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong and of collecting valuable personal data. Besides, China’s National Intelligence Law holds individuals and companies accountable for providing access, cooperation, or support for Beijing’s intelligence gathering.
Recently, Trump administration announced that they are “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, as they allege that the company could be compelled to “support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party”, stoking concerns among users who see TikTok as something more as an entertainment platform. The number of active TikTok users in the United States in 2019 is estimated at approximately 37.2 million and is expected to rise at 60.3 by 2024- unless Trump materializes a more aggressive policy towards China’s technological products. All in all, it is not the very first time that the U.S. would launch a techno- embargo to China.
Regardless whether we perceive TikTok or any other platform as Beijing’s Trojan Horse, and regardless whether the reasoning of other superpowers that their intentions are limited in safeguarding their citizens’ data is a pure pretext or a real concern, consistent with the current prevalent trend of online security, we see that the otherwise meant to be free from any kind of control or intervention, as initially promised, new technologies can constitute a proper battlefield of political, diplomatic or trade warfare among States.