Dark scene in the history of modern business civilization

Starting at 10 am on Thursday local time, the hearing held by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee against short-video platform TikTok lasted for about five hours. If you watch the hearing simply from a perspective of entertainment, then the event doesn’t disappoint: The US lawmakers who participated in the hearing can be regarded as “skillful actors” of Washington’s political theater, but this time they overacted a little bit, showing their absurdity and arrogance and adding drama to the hearing.

However, this is not a play; it is directly related to the fate of a tech giant with 150 million US users and a question more about how far the US will abuse politics to intrude into business activities. The hearing was “ugly” and “hysterical” even for some US media outlets and many US netizens thought that the lawmakers were extremely rude. The event reflects the surprising and worrying reality of the US political and business environment and sends chills down the spines of all foreign investors in the US market. To a certain extent, it can be said that this is a dark scene in the history of modern business civilization.

This hearing is a comprehensive and thorough revelation of Washington’s ugliness, bullying, and hostility toward China. It was called a “hearing,” but there was neither “hearing” nor “testimony.” Before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew could even begin to answer questions, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairperson of the congressional committee, bluntly declared: “Your platform should be banned.” Most of the lawmakers at the hearing did not have the slightest patience to listen to Chew’s description and explanations, often rudely interrupting him. It was clear that they were not prepared to listen, nor did they have any intention of dialogue or communication.

To be more precise, the hearing was designed from the beginning to be a TikTok “struggle session” with the presumption of guilt, a trumped-up charge, and judgment before trial in which no evidence was presented, nor was TikTok given the time or opportunity to prove itself. People were impressed by the unprofessionalism of the questions asked by the US lawmakers, the madness of their anti-China thinking, and the embarrassment of talking without communicating. It feels like these people are here to wreak havoc. And frankly speaking, this is worse than holding down a job without doing anything, as the latter is merely a waste of taxpayers’ money while causing less damage. We wonder who we should pity, as Washington’s politics, especially when it comes to strategy toward China, is controlled by such a group of extreme politicians and poisoned by such an atmosphere.

It can be determined that no matter how strong the evidence is, these US lawmakers will never be convinced, just like it’s impossible to wake up someone who’s pretending to sleep. Chew’s statements at the hearing were in strong contrast with the US lawmakers, and this was demonstrated not only inside the hearing room but also to the whole world. Justice lies in people’s hearts, and the hearing exposed the twists and turns of this matter. The Congress is a symbol of American political power. Its flaws, such as forced intervention in normal business activities, contempt and trampling of the market economy and fair competition, and abuse of “national security,” were vividly showcased in this hearing.

Until today, the US government has never provided evidence proving that TikTok presents a threat to its national security. The questions raised by the lawmakers are based on nothing more than assumptions and theories. Such a hearing can only prove Washington’s bandit logic. After trying everything in the book to force a sale of TikTok and failing, it now seems the US is resorting to robbery. Washington now acts like a savage from the jungle breaking into modern civilized society. China’s attitude is firm and clear. China will firmly oppose the sale or forced divestment of TikTok. As this involves technology exports, the administrative licensing procedures must be fulfilled according to China’s laws and regulations, and the Chinese government will make decisions under the law.

To some extent, the scene presented at the TikTok hearing is fairly representative: On one side is a global high-tech company representing openness, innovation, and vitality; on the other side are political elites with a Cold War mentality who cling to closed, outdated, and confrontational ideas. On one side are young Americans who embrace new technology and strongly support TikTok, while on the other side are stubborn people who would rather stagnate or regress and “kill their opponents.” This is more like a confrontation between old and new forces, in a scene that is also lamentable: The mentality in Washington has, indeed, gone awry.

This “Congressional hunt for TikTok” has once again torn off the glamorous facade of Washington’s so-called values and strengthened transnational corporations’ sense of insecurity in the US. It was Toyota in the past, TikTok now. Who will be next? If it happened once, it can happen again. People cannot remain indifferent to this.  GT

TikTok hearing a five-hour ‘hilarious cyber witch-hunt’ by Congress internet illiterates: netizens

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew (up center) testifies at a US Congressional hearing on March 23, 2023. The hearing, which was supposed to discuss data security and protection of children, was described by many netizens as a barbaric witch-hunt and pure bullying. Photo: VCG

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew (center) testifies at a US Congressional hearing on March 23, 2023. The hearing, which was supposed to discuss data security and protection of children, was described by many netizens as a barbaric witch hunt and pure bullying. Photo: VCG

The five-hour US Congressional TikTok hearing has made quite a splash on Chinese social media platforms, with netizens saying it fully revealed American lawmakers’ harassing interrogation methods, unreasonable challenges and that the hearing had nothing to do with data security, but was nothing more than an anti-Communist witch hunt.

Many media outlets used the word “grilled” to describe TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s situation attending the hearing, which Chinese netizens fully agreed with.

At the Thursday hearing, bipartisan lawmakers lined up to throw up several vague, speculative questions at Chew about data privacy, content moderation, child safety, and potential ties to the Communist Party of China (CPC), but barely gave him a chance to respond.

“The hearing left me the impression that they [lawmakers] care nothing about data security or youth addiction, but just used the hearing as a stage to perform a political farce,” a user wrote on Sina Weibo.

I have never heard so many “CPCs” from an American than at the hearing. Can’t they spell China? another Weibo user asked.

“The ghost of McCarthyism is haunting the US again.”

Another source of amusement for Chinese netizens came when Republican Dan Crenshaw claimed that Chinese citizens must cooperate with Chinese intelligence and if they are called upon, they are bound to secrecy. “That would include you [Chew].” The CEO responded: I’m Singaporean.

People shared the feeling that Chew was not attending a hearing, but was being interrogated barbarically by a group of rude internet illiterate.

One Chinese net user told the Global Times after a post on WeChat: I have to say I am sympathetic to Chew, who had to sit there for five hours listening to nonsense and respond to ridiculous accusations. He could have spent that time on more meaningful things, if it were not for the irrational, hysterical US.”

“Chew: Spending five hours in gym would be better than staying here,” the net user wrote.

Chinese netizens generally felt sympathetic watching a well-educated, decent executive of an internet company attempting to answer questions like “Does TikTok access the home WiFi network?”

In response to that, a Chinese netizen jokingly wrote: “Using 5G is also fine, but first you need to lift the bans on Huawei and ZTE.”

Another similarly “funny” question came from Georgia representative Earl “Buddy” Carter, who asked: “Why do you need to know where the eyes are [for a sunglass filter]?”

Twitter user Scott Hanselman wrote: “There’s not a single congressperson who has the technical background to ask or understand the questions and answers. Not even close.”

A WeChat moments post seen by Global Times read: “Basic education in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics, if not human decency, is necessary.”

It was a great moment of disillusion for some people who still have a rosy idea of a US where internet giants like Google are born. But the golden age ended a long time ago and the US has turned from a cradle of innovation into a robber, observers said.

By asking these ridiculous questions, the lawmakers have exposed not only their internet illiteracy, but also hegemonic mindset and pure arrogance – they didn’t even bother to really use the app before launching vicious accusations against it.

As for a question blaming TikTok for content on gun violence, drugs and even suicide, netizens urged the congresspersons to understand that TikTok is not “creating” them, it is only “showing” them as all platforms do. “TikTok is not a guardian,” one tweet read.

“It doesn’t matter what Chew says, it doesn’t even matter whether he appears or not. The hearing is just part of a witch hunt in the cyber era, and the verdict has already been written.”   GT

Russia’s iPhone ban and the digital supply chain

The Kremlin has ordered officials to stop using iPhones because they fear the devices may be vulnerable to Western intelligence agencies.

Russia’s Kremlin ordered officials to stop using iPhones, apparently over concerns the devices could be vulnerable to Western intelligence agencies, Reuters reports. When surveillance-as-a-service firms sit exposed for brazenly undermining device security, it’s hard to think there isn’t an argument there. But the bigger story isn’t the harm to Apple’s small business in Russia, it’s the threat to digital supply chains it shows.

We must protect digital supply chains

Having spent years attempting to build robust physical supply chains, it would be easy to imagine things should get better. But a new threat to business is emerging as digital supply chains struggle in the face of political fragmentation.

This was part of the discussion at Mobile World Congress in 2023, according to Orange Business CEO Aliette Mousnier-Lompré. She wrote: “I was struck by general worries of pretty much everyone I have spoken to around what the world politics can mean in terms of fragmentation of the digital supply chains.”

That fragmentation isn’t solely represented by smartphone tribalism in Moscow. It won’t simply see nation states invest in new operating systems designed to protect state assets. It is unlikely to cease with dystopian control over internet content or data protection. It could conceivably extend to damaging the standards that form the foundation of all the tech we use.

If they don’t work together, they don’t work at all

We already see traces of this.

Think about the dozens of smart home standards that are only now attempting to coalesce inside the Matter smart device standard. Think, too, of the three flavors of 5G that exist. In the context of our times, these represent the thin end of a threatening wedge.

Predicting the impact of such a threat is far from easy: but if you’ve ever lost data after plugging your device into a public USB power outlet, you’ll probably have some idea of what’s at stake. How long will it remain an open secret that C-class execs sometimes throw away their smartphone after visiting some places because they think it likely they’ve been hacked?

What threats exist?

While there are always multiple threats, two primary threats to digital supply chains exist.

That same mentality can easily extend to the deliberate confection of security failings within open-source components to the standards so much of our technology uses.

What might the consequences be?

The consequences of these threats could be profound:

  • Digital supply chain failures threaten physical supply.
  • Data can be lost, stolen, monitored, abused.
  • Companies may suffer reputational damage in consequence.
  • Financial damage is a real possibility.

Not only these, but as digital is now embedded within every business process, threats to digital supply chains may impact every industry, generating additional consequences and potentially threatening national security.

Think about it. In today’s digital business environment, the “services” category is something much bigger than Ted Lasso and Apple Music; it also encompasses myriads of complex cloud services cunningly crafted for specific business use. Such services must work well together, be available across multiple platforms, and need to be security first.

That need certainly extends to artificial intelligence — why would any company want to depend on a business AI that isn’t transparent concerning what happens to data entered into the system? Where do those questions go when asked, and who has access to them?

How does a business navigate these threats?

As always, security remains a primary consideration. On-site and off-site backups become critical. A business must spend time considering data sovereignty, particularly around use of cloud services. Knowing where a server is situated isn’t solely important to stay on the right side of GDPR rules, it’s also about ensuring a business knows where that data goes across its entire journey. And where it might leak.

Redundancy also matters, and in the context of unstable digital systems, it makes sense for enterprise leaders to consider how to build more resilient digital connections, perhaps using private 5G networks or leased physical connections to form resilient backbones.

We need better decisions

But ultimately tech firms including Apple, business leaders, and politicians need to consider the consequences of the decisions they make on interoperability. Because if interoperability between standards, platforms, and systems is not maintained, the digital glue driving the aspirations of the few who believe economic growth is even remotely possible in an environment characterized by climate collapse, political polarization, and resource scarcity will come to naught.

To save the economy, digital interoperability is critical, privacy essential and security mandatory. This extends to state-mandated backdoors and nation-state invested hacks into digital devices that should be obsessively eradicated to deny dictators such as those in the Kremlin an argument in the first place. At its simplest, in the digital world, no one is safe until all are safe.

Good luck with that.  – https://www.computerworld.com/

GLOBAL TIMES / https://www.computerworld.com/