Jordan Schneider on Trump and TikTok

When I complain about the way that Trump is trying to extort money from TikTok, people say I know nothing about tech and should learn from experts like Jordan Schneider and Ben Thompson. OK, here’s Jordan Schneider:

While I agree that TikTok could not continue to operate in the US while controlled by Bytedance, the method Trump going about executing this policy couldn’t be more counterproductive. Taking this step against Bytedance is a tough call. It means that any hope of enticing Chinese capital to continue investing in America is over, and life will get even harder for American firms trying to maintain a foothold on the mainland. More importantly, the optics of Trump demanding a, probably not even legal, finder’s fee to the Treasury are awful. I’m old enough to remember way back when in 2016 America used to credibly preach the gospel of due process and rule of law around the world. . . .

What’s the right way to handle concerns about the influence of foreign social media platforms? With repeatable and consistently enforced country-agnostic regulations that require both American and foreign firms to submit to the same verifiable standards for data privacy, algorithmic transparency, and content moderation.

But what we have now with Trump’s handling of TikTok combined with this ‘clean network’ nonsense from Pompeo is more damning to our global standing and ability to advocate for an open internet than anything Global Times could have dreamed up. Pompeo literally said “five cleans” as if he worked on the Chinese State Council when for god’s sake there are six cleans in the slide! It’s really not too much to ask that in this tech cold war Trump is marching America into he not at the same time gratuitously ape the worst aspects of the CCP.



17 Responses to “Jordan Schneider on Trump and TikTok”

  1. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    6. August 2020 at 09:48

    Here’s my impression of a Sumner critic:

    “See! Sumner claims that Trump is extorting the Chinese and provides as support a quote that refutes his position. A finder’s fee is not extortion. If the finder’s fee was extortion then Schneider would call it extortion. Trump is a business man and running the country like one of his successful companies, just like he always said he would. Finder’s fees are common in the M&A world (something an Ivory Tower Academic like Sumner would have no experience with). Just another sad example of Sumner’s TDS.”

    How’d I do?

  2. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    6. August 2020 at 10:28

    Also important to point out that tech experts don’t have a monopoly of expertise on this topic. This obviously has legal, economic, and foreign policy dimensions. Scott obviously speaks as an economic expert, not that Trumpers care about expertise anyway.

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. August 2020 at 11:49

    Not necessarily TDS, but Scott once again uses the eccentric, amateurish expressions of an orange-headed Legastehnic as an excuse to distract from the real issue:

    TikTok is under observation in most democracies, and the owner and founder of ByteDance himself said more than two days ago that he wanted to sell. Media says it’s only a matter of days until it’s sold. A GAFAM company seems to be an obvious buyer, most likely Microsoft or Facebook.

    A company of this kind in this sector cannot operate long-term in both systems, that’s obvious. The Western democracies have heard from Scott that CCP China is fascist, and now they must act on this information.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. August 2020 at 12:14

    Garrett, Pretty close.

    Christian, Please stick to the topic.

  5. Gravatar of Skeptical Skeptical
    6. August 2020 at 13:26

    Of course Trump did something stupid. TikTok has lawyers, they’re not stupid, and they don’t believe the US government is going to literally extort them.

    Taking this step against Bytedance is a tough call. It means that any hope of enticing Chinese capital to continue investing in America is over

    This is hyperbole to the extreme. Who wants to make a bet on the trend of Chinese investment in the US going down? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    …and life will get even harder for American firms trying to maintain a foothold on the mainland

    China is going to make the decisions that make the most sense for their internal stakeholders, I doubt this will have any measurable effect whatsoever. Facebook still banned? Google still banned? Cool, let’s get a reality check then.

    Trump may be an idiot, but China is not.

    What’s the right way to handle concerns about the influence of foreign social media platforms? With repeatable and consistently enforced country-agnostic regulations that require both American and foreign firms to submit to the same verifiable standards for data privacy, algorithmic transparency, and content moderation.

    This is an interesting approach and deserves a serious debate. Unfortunately it ignores the truth that there is no daylight between Chinese firms and the CCP intelligence apparatus. I realize Jordan is in a tough spot given his work, so I don’t begrudge him and also don’t believe he is being literal.

    There’s also a very strong argument for unilateral surrender in a Cold War that is both pointless and doomed to fail. China won’t have anything interesting to snoop if we’re apathetic towards their rise to power and stop enforcing IP laws.

  6. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. August 2020 at 20:29

    “American and foreign firms to submit to the same verifiable standards for data privacy, algorithmic transparency, and content moderation.”— Jordan Schneider commentary.

    Really? “Content moderation”?

    I guess it is now accepted that the YouTubes, Googles, Facebooks, Twitters, etc. will censor, ie., engage in “content moderation.” This now goes well beyond simple hate speech.

    Trump says “children are immune” to C19, which is nearly true, but his comments have been censored. And next?

    Yes, all of the above are private-sector platforms. But, all are the modern-day equivalents of the town square.

    Welcome to the world of “content moderation.”

  7. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    6. August 2020 at 21:16

    The real tragedy here is that the US used to occupy a very necessary and useful position in the international order. The US used to push for a rules-based order, rule of law on an international scale, resolution by courts etc. This in contrast to the likes of Russia and China (and really, a whole lot of others) who represent “tyranny” in the sense of, everything is decided on political grounds, rules are made on the fly or after the fact etc. Actually China in this dispute looks a lot more rule of law than the US who really proceeds by arbitrary punishment and blatant extortion and blackmail. It is ghastly.

    So we are now left with a world where there is no major political actor left to defend the rule of law. It is all up for grabs, random private companies are expropriated or banned ad hoc with no evidence of a crime or any rules broken, personal vendettas are the norm, the state is perverted as a plaything to satisfy the (inconsequential) whims of some senile leader. I bet there are much more genuine intelligence threats that Tik Tok btw but people, companies, countries, get booked at random rather than based on facts. Basically, tyranny won. I certainly would not want to invest in the US now, not even as a European, you never know what the next fit will be about.

  8. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. August 2020 at 22:12


    I do not accept that there is moral equivalency between Beijing, the Communist Party of China and Xi Xinping, and on the other hand, even the ogre Donald Trump and the lugubrious ‘Phants/Donks.

    Beyond that, there is no such thing as “free,” “fair” or “foul” international trade. The WTO is like a referee at a WWE wrestling match, except the referee probably has a better Vision onto his bailiwick.

  9. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    6. August 2020 at 22:57


    if you want to spread the rule of law, you don’t get to ignore it on a whim. No equivalency? If you seize property or ban products and companies based on mere suspicion, arbitrary whims, singling out personal enemies using the full power of the state, you have zero standing defending a rules based order. In truth of course Trump doesn’t care about a rules based order, I doubt he properly understands what the rule of law means. And he understands his position as, might is right. Internationally, the US has made the very concept of a rules based order a laughing stock. It has obliterated the very idea and aspiration to it.

  10. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    7. August 2020 at 05:20

    mbka–Well, yes, Trump does not believe in rules-based order, or maybe anyone else either.

    On the other hand, India also just banned those same apps, and a few dozen more, also citing privacy and national security concerns.

    Trump is actually not banning the apps, but insisting that control of information collected through the apps be shifted into US-based companies, such as Microsoft.

    What is fascinating is that Trump has chosen to be at odds with America’s globalist-multinationalist-militarists. The heart and monied soul of the’Phants/Donks, in other words.

    Well, rest easy. I think the long knives will finally get Trump in the election, and Infant Terrible Trump has been his own worst enemy.

    We will see how Biden and Susan Rice will do. Perhaps a replay of the Obama years, and they were not bad.

    Still, the cancel-culture of left-wing of the Donks, and the China apologists, will be in power, both looking more abject with each passing day, and hugging each other down the aisle.

    Time to vote for Pat Paulsen.

  11. Gravatar of anon anon
    7. August 2020 at 05:32

    There is no daylight between CCP/Chinese Intelligence and enterprises in China: what is your take on FBI and AG of US (and AUS too wants backdoor IIRC) asking for backdoor to secure messaging – ignoring the expert consensus/opinion that it is scientifically impossible?

  12. Gravatar of Skeptical Skeptical
    7. August 2020 at 05:58


    My take is that it’s dumb and won’t happen without a law being passed that bans secure messaging. Which is a nice illustration of one of the key differences.

    Telegram of course is banned in China.

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    7. August 2020 at 10:09


    Matthias Görgens has brought a similar argument, but how exactly does it apply? Where exactly is the rule of law broken, please? Has the ogre taken control of the courts? Did I miss something. You guys say this so easily, but where exactly is the rule of law not intact?


    sorry I didn’t see any new information in your post except that Mr. Orangehead is an ogre. You’ve done such a post a thousand times, this time it’s correct, but I don’t see the point, if the ogre does something illegal, the courts will stop him. The US is not CCP China, where the courts are controlled by a fascist one-party system.

  14. Gravatar of anon anon
    7. August 2020 at 19:01

    It all boils to the cup half full (Skeptical, Christian List, etc) vs half empty (a lot of folks) view.

    So in future there would be a conversation that goes:

    Q: How did you become a rule-less, law-less land?

    A: “Two ways”, Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly”.

    The Gradual phase is where US is perhaps now? The wannabe sovereigns and dictators and megalomaniacs and their enablers are constantly chipping or trying to chip away at the good things. And Suddenly all 3 branches are in cahoots to rule them over all, you might as well join them if not stop them 🙂 Or should it be 🙁

    The half empty folks are crying wolf constantly, like that kid in that parable, to keep all aware of dangers just around the bend. It takes a heavy toll indeed for that constant mental acuity and alertness both on self (heightened sense of the doom pending) and the others (ignore)

  15. Gravatar of Aleksander Aleksander
    7. August 2020 at 20:18

    Christian List:
    “if the ogre does something illegal, the courts will stop him.”
    Probably not in time to stop the actual illegal thing he’s doing. There are many pending cases against Trump that are likely to rule against the administration, but not before the election.

    There are also several examples of courts refusing to pass judgement on cases against him, because they are disputes between the executive and other branches. Their opinions basically say that voters will have to pass judgement by voting for a different president (or voting in different lawmakers who will make laws that more explicitly limit the executive power).

    So no, you should not rely on courts to stop illegal executive action, at least in the short term.

  16. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    8. August 2020 at 00:35


    re: rule of law. It’s Tik Tok that has broken no law, nor has there been even cursory evidence for it. Forced sale of a company singled out by mere fingering at it, with mandatory cut for the US government – breathtaking corruption worthy of the “old” third world, I don’t think even the third world these days does it quite as shamelessly anymore. It really shows Trump’s thinking works exactly like the mafia.

    The point of the rule of law is to create a predictable environment whereby you can be assured that as long as you follow published rules, you won’t be in trouble. The rules are published in advanced and changed according to a formal procedure, usually democratic, but not necessarily so. The rules apply to all equally. That sets it apart from tyranny which is defined as a condition of arbitrary ad hoc rule making, rules applying unequally, ad hoc exemptions, ad hoc punishments, rules made for single cases or persons etc. The rule of law is pretty much the most important component of development, economic or otherwise, because it makes life predictable and therefore investment less risky. This among others lowers the discount rate, i.e. people accept longer investments at lower returns because they trust the rules will still be the same long time in the future. Trump damages all of these. The US of course is not a tyranny yet, but he clearly shows that it would be if he had his way, and internationally he clearly shows he has no respect for treaties. So treaties with the US are pointless. And of course no Chinese with any brains will ever trust America again in the next 30 years. I mean, I don’t trust America either, it’s a complete scattershot now, it’s like, it’s lost its identity and is looking for a new one. Like, from Shining City on the Hill to Midnight Raider.

  17. Gravatar of Skeptical Skeptical
    8. August 2020 at 06:51


    Never been described as a ‘cup half full’ person about the future of the US.

    I always assumed the future of the US was roughly Brazil, but much wealthier.

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