There's a New Twist in the TikTok Story - Latest Global News

There’s a New Twist in the TikTok Story

When then-US President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok over alleged Chinese influence in 2020, Microsoft attempted to buy the app’s US operations but failed – a move that CEO Satya Nadella later described as “the strangest thing.” he had ever done”.

Now events get even stranger. Last month, President Joe Biden signed a bill requiring ByteDance, the China-based owner of TikTok, to sell its U.S. operations by January 2025 or face a ban. ByteDance is now fighting against this in the US courts. Meanwhile, Trump himself has apparently changed his mind and appears to be against a ban, probably because Jeff Yass, one of several large US investors in ByteDance, is also a big Trump supporter.

Even stranger, some of Trump’s key allies, such as Robert Lighthizer, hate China’s alleged influence on TikTok, while Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s former treasury secretary, appears keen to buy it.

And this week, Frank McCourt, the real estate mogul and fierce critic of Big Tech, launched a supposed “people’s offering” through the investment bank Guggenheim. This is supported by Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, and Jonathan Haidt, the influential social psychologist, whose new book: The fearful generationHe rejects social media.

In reality, this public move seems quixotic, if not outright public. McCourt claims he has an advantage in any competition because he doesn’t want to buy the recommendation algorithm. This is considered the secret sauce of TikTok, which many in Washington claim is tightly controlled by Beijing and therefore key to US national security concerns. “We will probably be the only bidder that has no interest in the algorithm,” says McCourt, emphasizing that removing the algorithm is the only way to build a healthier platform.

But McCourt tells me he hasn’t discussed his move with Beijing and there’s no funding in place for the group yet. And ByteDance has no incentive to negotiate while it fights a ban in U.S. courts — or if it believes Trump could win in November and overturn it.

Still, technology investors shouldn’t ignore McCourt: If nothing else, this offering raises questions that challenge our assumptions about what cyberspace might look like in the future.

This is partly about controlling the so-called “social graph”, i.e. the online data and the digital footprint of the users. In recent years, prominent voices like McCourt and Haidt have criticized Big Tech’s control of the social graph, arguing that it is being used to manipulate us all in unhealthy ways, via opaque algorithms like the one in TikTok.

The instinct of most policymakers – and parents – is therefore to turn back the clock and curb social media. However, this seems unrealistic because the digitalization of our lives has changed not only our daily habits but also our cognitive maps and innate cultural patterns in at least two important ways.

The first is a shift away from so-called “vertical” trust relationships towards “lateral” ones – from seeking advice from institutions and authority figures to a networked peer group. The second has its roots in what I call the rise of “Gen P” – the “pick ‘n’ mix” or “playlist” generation – whose members are becoming addicted to tailoring their cyber lives to the individual choices of consumers to adapt, and to do so in a This is further reinforced by the rise of artificial intelligence tools.

These two shifts are causing internet users to band together into like-minded groups online, where they decide what is “true” by scanning the feelings and experiences of like-minded people, with startling results. For example, a survey by the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows that teenagers are the generation with the most conspiracy thoughts.

And remarkable ethnographic research by Jigsaw, an arm of Alphabet, and others suggests that in most areas of life, young people today trust their peers and value them for medical information more than doctors. In fact, AI bots are increasingly trusted more than human authority figures because of their penchant for customization and advice from their peers. Yes, really.

This is scary considering that online tribalism and bots can – and often are – manipulated. The White House, for example, fears that China is using the TikTok algorithm to manipulate consumers’ “choices.”

However, it seems pointless to hope that these two changes can be reversed: Generation P is embedded. So the crucial question is whether there is a way to work with Are these trends meant to clean up the internet rather than wish it away?

McCourt insists the answer is yes – and has sunk $500 million into a “Liberty” platform that uses open-source protocols to give individuals personal control over their social graph and so much less being vulnerable to manipulation. He hopes to use TikTok to scale this. Berners-Lee is pursuing similar goals via a so-called solid platform.

Of course, that sounds even more quixotic than her TikTok offer. Big Tech won’t give up ground without a fight, and there’s no guarantee that people who control their social network will use it wisely.

But before dismissing this, technology investors should consider that the Internet has already evolved extraordinarily quickly and in ways once unimaginable, and could do so again. Or to put it another way: quixotic or not, this new twist in the TikTok story shows how “weird” is increasingly looking normal in a political, geopolitical, and psychological sense. Don’t count anything out.

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