Headline, December 01 2019/ '' ' TIK TOK -!WOW!- TIC TOC ' ''

'' ' TIK TOK - !WOW! -

 TIC TOC ' ''


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OVER THE PAST YEAR - TIK TOK'S APP has been downloaded more than 750 million times - more than Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat according to research firm Sensor Tower.

LIKE almost everybody who runs a big tech company these days, Alex Zhu, the head of the of-the-moment video app TikTok, is worried about an image problem.

To him - and to millions of TikTok's users - the app is a haven for creativity, earnest self-expression and silly dance videos. In almost no time, TikTok has emerged as the refreshing weirdo upstart of the American social media landscape, reconfiguring the culture in its joyful, strange wake.

But to some people in the United States government, Tik Tok is a menace. And one big reason is the nationality of its owner, seven-year old Chinese social-media company called ByteDance.

The fear is that TikTok is exposing America's youth to Communist Party indoctrination and smuggling their data to Beijing servers.

The desire to fix this perception gap is what brought Mr. Zhu last week to a WeWork co-working space in New York, where a handful of his colleagues are based. Mr. Zhu, a trim 40-year-old who speaks fluently, lightly accented English, helped found Musical.ly, a Shanghai based lip-syncing app that ByteDance acquired in in 2017 and folded into TikTok.

In an interview - his first since taking the reins at TikTok this year - Mr. Zhu denied, in unambigious terms, several key accusations.

No, TikTok does not censor videos that displease China, he said. And no, it does not share user data with China, or even with its Beijing-based parent company. All data on TikTok users worldwide is stored in Virginia, he said with a backup server in Singapore.

But China is a murky place for companies. Even if TikTok's policies are clear on paper, what if the Chinese authorities decided they didn't like them and pressured ByteDance?

What if China's top leader, President Xi Jinping personally asked Mr. Zhou to take down a video or hand over user data?
''I would turn him down,'' Mr. Zhu said, after barely a moment's thought.

Washington at this moment is suspicious of Chinese tech companies to a degree that can feel like paranoia. The Trump administration's biggest target has been Huawei, the giant supplier of  Smartphones and Telecommunication equipment.

But it has also tried kneecapping Chinese producers of microchips, surveillance gear and supercomputers.
That a lip sync-syncing app now finds itself in the same position shows the extent to which any Chinese advancement is seem as harmful to American interests.

The weapon being wielded against TikTok is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The secretive federal panel known as CFIUS, is looking into ByteDance's purchase of Musical.ly.

Earlier this year, the committee forced a different Chinese company to relinquish control over the  dating app Grindr, which it had bought in 2016. The concern was also that Beijing might gain access to personal information.

Mr. Zhou said TikTok user data was segregated from rest of the ByteDance, and was not even used to help improve ByteDance's artificial intelligence and other technologies.

''The data of TikTok is only being used by TikTok for TikTok users,'' he said. It is unclear how such   assurances will be received in Washington.

''If Instagram or Facebook wanted to be sold to a Chinese firm in some way, I would 100 percent see the same issues at hand,'' said Clark Fonda, a former Congressional chief of staff and an author of a 2018 law that expanded CFIUS's powers.

''It's about the underlying distrust of the Chinese government and what, theoretically, they could do with this data.''

In this tense time, Mr. Zhu is an unlikely peacemaker. With his long salt-and-pepper hair and light mustache and goatee, he looks more like a poet than a tech founder.

He seems to relish a little artsy oddness. On his Linkedin profile, he describes himself as a  ''designtrepreneur'' and gives his work location as ''Mars''.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Global Operational Research on Tik Tok, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Raymond Zhong.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW! The World Students Society
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