Should Trump ban TikTok and WeChat? | The TechTank Podcast

General view of the U.S. head office of TikTok in Culver City, California, U.S., September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On June 20, President Donald Trump showed up in Tulsa, Oklahoma for his first campaign rally after a three-month hiatus. Before the rally, the Trump campaign bragged about the million tickets that had been pre-requested. But when the rally started only 6,200 people showed up at the arena, and the President addressed a sea of empty chairs. Politically active young people used TikTok to encourage others to reserve tickets but not show up, thereby forcing Trump to play to an empty room.

Soon thereafter, President Trump released an Executive Order banning Chinese applications TikTok and WeChat in the United States and ordering TikTok’s sale to an American company. He argued the companies could release personal data to the Chinese government and therefore represented a national security threat. TikTok now is in talks with Oracle for the sale of its American operations.

In this episode, Darrell West, Nicol Turner Lee, and Tom Wheeler address the broader issues represented by these presidential actions and whether they signal a trend toward a fractured internet divided by national boundaries and security fears. If the president makes good on his order to ban these applications or force TikTok to be sold to a U.S. firm, will the concept of an open, borderless internet vanish? These are the crucial questions that will shape the future of the internet and U.S. tech policy.

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TechTank is a biweekly podcast from Lawfare and The Brookings Institution exploring the most consequential technology issues of our time. From racial bias in algorithms to the future of work, TechTank takes big ideas and makes them accessible. In a series of roundtable discussions and interviews with technology experts and policymakers, moderators Dr. Nicol Turner Lee and Darrell West unpack tech policy debates and highlight new data, ideas, and policy solutions. Future episodes will explore the role of technology in election interference, disinformation campaigns, school reopening and broadband access, the digital divide and more. Sign up to receive the TechTank newsletter for more research and analysis from the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.