Global Crackdown On Chinese Tech Companies

Global Crackdown On Chinese Tech Companies

Nations across the world including the USA and India, are putting a ban on the Chinese tech companies and revamping trade relations with China. Some say the primary reason to do so is to prevent threats to national security, whereas some point out to China’s opaque response to Covid-19. Let us find out which countries have put a ban on Chinese companies and why?

Crux of the Matter

Chinese Tech Companies, A Threat?
All the Chinese companies are vulnerable to Article 14 and Article 16 of China’s Intelligence Law, 2017. No matter what Chinese companies say to the governments across the world but they will have to comply with the Chinese government’s order, making every Chinese app a potential threat to the nations across the world.

State intelligence work organs, when legally carrying forth intelligence work, may demand that concerned organ, organization, or citizens provide needed support, assistance, and cooperation.

Article 14 of China’s Intelligence Law, 2017 (non-deniable Article)

Intelligence official may enter relevant restricted areas and venues, may learn from and question relevant institutions, organizations and individuals and may read or collect relevant field, materials, and items

Article 16 of China’s Intelligence Law, 2017

TikTok In Pain
After the imposition of controversial national security law, many giant firms like Google, Facebook, etc have withdrawn their operation in Hong Kong. More shocking is that China’s TikTok has also announced to stop operations in Hong Kong. By doing so, the company is trying to show its distance from mainland China. However, TikTok’s decision to stop operations in Hong Kong is not that straight forward as it fell into a controversy over censoring anti-China posts in Hong Kong during protests against the Extradition Law last year. Experts say the move could be politically motivated.

America is mulling to ban TikTok after considering it a potential threat of leaking personal data of users to Beijing. Recently, India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, a move which was also hailed by US State Secretary Mike Pompeo. Amidst high tension over the border, India banned these apps considering them a threat to national security.

Americans should only download the app if they want their private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State

Apart from security reasons, there was a serious problem with censorship of content.

Ban On Huawei
Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. have decided to ban and phase out Huawei’s products. Meanwhile, the UK has banned the company from contributing core parts to 5G technology, cutting Huawei’s share in the country’s new network to 35%. UK is also thinking of banning Huawei by capping its share price and excluding it from the core 5G Project. It might consider removing 3G and 4G equipment of Huawei as well.

Moreover, the USA has increased pressure on China by banning the sale of semiconductor chips to the Huawei. Countries such as Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium are also thinking of excluding Huawei from its core 5G infrastructure development.

  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and of its founding and ruling political party, the Communist Party of China (CPC). Huawei was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former Deputy Regimental Chief in the People’s Liberation Army.
  • PUBG Mobile topped the charts for earning maximum revenue in May this year. The Tencent-owned game led the gaming app segment by making $226 million revenue last month. The Chinese game was followed up by Honor of Kings, which garnered revenue of over $204 in May across the globe.
  • In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

Why Were TikTok and 58 Other Chinese Apps Banned?

Why Were TikTok and 58 Other Chinese Apps banned?

As per an official notice circulated by Ministry of Home Affairs, TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps have been banned from Monday evening by Ministry of Electronics and IT. They further added how these apps violated the privacy of Indian citizens. This move has further added fuel to the fire felt between Indo-China at Galwan face-off and trade war.

Crux of the Matter

Which Apps Are No Longer With Us?
The most popular ones to be banned and that can take a big hit for the Chinese firms include:
Social Media apps like Byte Dance’s TikTok, that considers India as its biggest market, and Halo
Community and Video Call apps like Designed by Xiaomi, India’s top smartphone vendor
Utility apps like UC Browser, ES File Explorer, Clean Master, CamScanner
Beauty apps like YouCam Makeup and Beauty Plus
Cross-platform sharing app like ShareIt, Xender, and E-Commerce app Shein
News apps like Newsdog, UC News, QQ Newsfeed
Games like Clash of Kings, Mobile Legends
Communication apps like WeChat, WeMeet
Photo & video apps like Sweet Selfie, Wonder Camera, Viva Video
Security apps like QQ Security Center, and DU Privacy

Why Did They Do It
These apps developed in China were called out for “engaging in activities that were prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity to India, defence of India and security of the state and public order.”

Long story short, there were reports of a security breach and data privacy violations from citizens in responses received by Computer Emergency Response Team. (CERT-IN)

Who All Will Be Affected?
According to a mobile insights firm, 27 of these apps were in India’s most downloaded 1000 apps last month.

What Did TikTok Do?
With TikTok having more than 120 million monthly active users, their fanbase would be most affected unless given an alternative. However what the disappointed fans don’t know is how their data was secretly being transferred to servers outside India, in an unauthorized manner.

What Did TikTok Really Do?
Recently, TikTok faced backlash for videos on domestic violence, animal cruelty, racism, and objectification of women on the platform. A Reddit user bangorlol, who claimed to have reverse engineered TikTok, said “It is a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device…well they are using it”. The user also claims that TikTok snoops on users’ GPS location and also it can remotely change logging capabilities without user permission. Apple recently discovered that TikTok was accessing the users’ clipboard data. So if the user copied any text or image anywhere on the phone, TikTok accessed it.

Rising Tensions
Since 5 May 2020, Indian and Chinese Army troops have been engaging in violent face-offs at locations along the Sino-Indian border. Subsequently, International trade between India and China has been affected by the suspension of business deals and halting goods at ports in both countries.

This has been highlighted with #BoycottChina movement rampant online that calls for a boycott of Chinese Goods and urges consumers to buy the ones made in India.

  • In 2018, ByteDance shutdown its first product Neihan Duanzi after the Chinese govt strongly criticized it for “triggering strong sentiments of resentment among internet users”.
  • Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming accepted that the app was incommensurate with socialist core values, promised to deepen cooperation to promote govt policies.
  • It also said that it would hire Chinese Communist Party members and increase its censors to 10,000 employees.

Google Facing Flak For Not Respecting Customers’ Voice

Google facing flak from users

Google has attracted dissatisfying responses from users, especially from the Indian userbase as it revived TikTok’s rating and removed Indian apps Mitron and Remove China Apps. Moreover, a lawsuit has been filed against it in the US for peeping into user’s using Incognito mode.

Crux of the Matter

Peeping Google Sued
A $5 billion lawsuit has been filed against Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google. It is accused of collecting information about what people are browsing in Incognito mode. The complaint has been filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws. In the report, it is claimed that the company uses Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, website plugins and smartphone apps to gather users’ data.

Collected data could be on users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online. As per the lawsuit, data of Incognito mode since June 1, 2016, has been gathered. It demanded $5000 compensation for each user.

Incognito mode

  • No person using the same device will be able to find out what you have searched
  • Doesn’t save cookies and browsing history
  • Files do not appear in download manager
  • Websites can collect information about your browsing activity
  • Downloaded files from websites remain on your computer
  • Bookmarked sites remain in the bookmark list

Summachar’s Coverage: Indian Youtubers Show Their Muscle As They Take Down TikTok

Google Play Store Facing Backlash
Recently, Google play store has removed India’s Mitron and Remove China Apps from the Play Store. As per the Cybersecurity experts and researchers, Mitron app had some security related issues and was not safe to use. Mitron app was developed by Shivank Agarwal, a student of IIT Roorkee. The source code of the app was purchased from Pakistani coding company Qboxus. Agarwal launched it after customizing the coding and changing the privacy policy. But it was found out that the app had software security and weak privacy policy issues.

According to the cybersecurity experts, Remove China Apps was safe to use as it scanned only installed android application package (APK) and searched for its developer’s country to match it with its repository. OneTouch AppLabs developed Remove China Apps violated Google’s ‘spam and minimum functionality’ policy, as per experts.

  • Larry Page is an American software engineer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known as one of the co-founders of Google along with Sergey Brin. As of March 2020, Page is the 13th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $62.6 billion, according to Forbes.
  • In December 2018, Sundar Pichai (then Google CEO) was testified before the House Judiciary Committee for 3.5 hours due to wide range of issues, including potential political bias on the company’s platforms, Google’s plans for a censored search app in China and Google’s privacy practices.
  • Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai encouraged employees to take a moment of silence to honor black lives lost. As a result, Google employees globally observed silence of 8min 49sec at 1 PM PDT on Wednesday. The silence lasted for the same amount of time that George Floyd was held under the knee for.

Indian Youtubers Show Their Muscle As They Take Down TikTok

TikTok vs Youtube

TikTok is once again facing a backlash in India after the roast war between YouTubers and TikTokers. This resulted in dropping of its rating from 4.5 to 1.3 stars in only a week.

Crux of the Matter

TikTok Timeline

  • 2016: TitTok (Douyin) launched in China
  • 2017: Launched Outside China
  • 2017: Owned App for $1 billion
  • 2018: Acquired 100 million users of App
  • 2018: Indonesia temporarily banned Tik Tok
  • 2019: Becomes no.1 Non-Gaming App
  • 2019: App launched in 150 countries in 75 languages
  • 2020: It reaches 800 million monthly active users

Past Controversy

  • Feb 2019: Tamil Nadu govt asks Centre’s help over banning TikTok after massive protest
  • 1st April 2019: TikTok is accused of promoting ‘pornographic’ content and plea was filed against it in Madras High Court
  • 3rd April: Madras HC demands center to ban Tik tok
  • 12th April: Tik Tok in response removed 6 million video violating guidelines
  • 13th April: Gained 88.6 million new users in India
  • 15th April: Supreme Court refused to stay Madras high court’s ban
  • 18th April: Central govt removed TikTok from Play Store and App Store
  • 24th April : Madras HC lifts ban saying it was only concerned about preventing any crime

Recent Controversy

  • TikToker Amir Siddiqui roasts YouTuber Elvish Yadav
  • 8th May 2020: Youtuber CarryMinati uploads ‘YouTube vs TikTok: The End’ video in response to Amir Siddiqui’s roast
  • 14th May: Youtube removes CarryMinati’s Video
  • 18th May: Faisal Siddiqui publishes a video on TikTok allegedly portraying an acid attack. App’s rating fell to 1.3 stars on Google Play after followers of CarryMinati and other YouTubers rallied against TikTok
  • 20th May: TikTok removes Faisal Siddiqui’s Account

Whirlpool Of Allegations
TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, is accused of spying on users and sending data to China. Many US politicians and Tech CEOs have expressed their concerns over the secret surveillance by China over the common people of the USA through the app. A lawsuit was filed against TikTok in California, USA.

TikTok is accused of allowing sensitive content in India, whereas in China it restricts sensitive content not complying with the interests of the Chinese government. During the TikTok vs YouTube row, other social media platforms like Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, etc. are flooded with anti- TikTok protests. Some say the protests are about TikTokers using derivative content and getting famous. Some YouTubers even compared their content on TikTok as cringe.

  • Three former PayPal employees, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim created YouTube in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for $1.65 billion. As of May 2019, more than 500 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. And based on reported quarterly advertising revenue, YouTube is estimated to have $15 billion in annual revenues.
  • A review bomb is an Internet phenomenon in which large groups of people leave negative user reviews online for a published work, most commonly a video game, an app or a theatrical film, in an attempt to harm the sales or popularity of a product, particularly to draw attention to an issue with the product or its vendor. Youtube Rewind 2018 was review bombed by users around the globe for its exclusion of various top personalities on the service, as well as other factors relating to controversies affecting creators.
  • In China, Douyin is an app by Bytedance which is the same as TikTok but is running on separate servers to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions. ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016. TikTok is popular in Asia, the United States, and other parts of the world whereas Douyin is specifically made for China.

TikTok CEO Urges Company to Expand Through Diversification

TikTok founder Zhang Yiming has insisted upon diversifying TikTok’s growth through new acquisitions and untapped markets. The company has been facing political pressure from the USA for matters on the use of data by the Chinese company.

Crux of the Matter
  • The US has been mulling over the presence of the Chinese company regarding data use and censorship issues.
  • ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, acquired USA’s application for $1 billion.
  • TikTok also faced regulatory hits in countries like Indonesia and India.
  • The CEO of this popular app urged the company to expand in the untapped geographies. He also insisted upon fortified data protection measures.

TikTok Ban in India – On 3 April 2019, the Madras High Court while hearing a PIL had asked the Government of India to ban the app, citing that it “encourages pornography”. The court also noted that children using the app were at risk of being targeted by sexual predators. The court further asked broadcast media not to telecast any of those videos from the app. The spokesperson for TikTok stated that they were abiding by local laws and were awaiting the copy of the court order before they take action. On 17 April, both Google and Apple removed TikTok from Google Play and the App Store. As the court refused to reconsider the ban, the company stated that they had removed over 6 million videos that violated their content policy and guidelines. Read More