If Steve Martin were to remake his 1984 film “Lonely Guy” this year, he could center it around Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok. It’s a paradox that the executive leading one of the most popular apps in the U.S. is basically on his own as he fights the threat of a ban from both the Biden administration and congressional opponents. The few people who have publicly come out in support of TikTok include a couple of Democrats, the ACLU and some creators, such as a math teacher, as we reported today. Big tech firms? If they’ve taken a position publicly, it’s more likely to be against TikTok.
You might say fair’s fair—China doesn’t allow U.S. tech firms to operate freely, so why should the U.S. allow Chinese firms to do so? The flaw in that attitude, though, should be evident. The big U.S. tech companies typically generate around half their revenue from international markets. Do they really want to support anything that smacks of protectionism? Banning TikTok could set a precedent that other countries could use against U.S. tech firms. There’s also the fact that this anti-TikTok push reeks of xenophobia and double standards, as Julia Angwin eloquently said in a New York Times opinion piece on Monday. You’d think tech folks, who rely on foreign consumers and foreign talent, wouldn’t want to be associated with that kind of thinking.