“Entirely performative” — TikTokbanned or not, its probably here to stay, an Ars Frontiers 2023 recap Experts discussed the legal impossibility of a nationwide TikTok ban.
Ashley Belanger – May 26, 2023 1:20 pm UTC Enlarge / On May 22, Ashley Belanger (top left) moderated a panel featuring Ioana Literat (bottom left), Bryan Cunningham (top right), and Corynne McSherry (bottom right) for the Ars Frontiers 2023 session titled, “TikTokBanned or Not, It’s Probably Here to Stay.” reader comments 12 with
Ars Frontiers kicked off Monday with a panel called “TikTokBanned or Not, It’s Probably Here to Stay,” featuring experts on TikTok, data privacy, and cybersecurity.
It just so happened that the week before Ars Frontiers, TikTok was banned in Montana. This made the panel discussion particularly timely, as some TikTok creators and TikTok promptly sued the state, hoping to ensure that all Americans maintain access to the China-owned appdespite lawmakers’ national security concerns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might use TikTok to access US user data. Ars Frontiers 2023: “TikTokBanned or Not, It’s Probably Here to Stay.”
An associate professor in the communication media and learning technologies design program at Teachers College, Columbia University, Ioana Literat monitors how young people use social media. She has been researching TikTok since it first became available in the US. Banning TikTok at the “apex of its popularity,” Literat said, would set “a huge cultural and political precedent” for TikTok’s young user base, which is so politically active on the app.
“The government hasn’t really shown a compelling justification for the ban,” Literat said. “If you’re going to restrict freedom of speech in this way, you really need to make a very clear and potent case for the need for the ban” and really prove that “there’s no better alternatives to this ban.” Advertisement
Beyond rationales for a ban not being compelling, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Corynne McSherry said that state and federal pushes to ban TikTok were “entirely performative and a complete waste of time.” Her organization advocates for more comprehensive data privacy laws, rather than a TikTok ban.
Discussing the various First Amendment concerns that banning TikTok would cause, she agreed with Literat that “the government really hasn’t made much of an effort to get beyond rhetoric in terms of what we should really be worried about.”
“Perhaps you can hear in my voice, I’m a little frustrated about this,” McSherry said. “If we actually care about data privacy, which I think we shouldI think that’s really importantwhat we really need is comprehensive federal legislation that doesn’t just target one particular app, but actually really protects all of us by targeting all of the different ways in which companies are surveilling us all the time.”
Bryan Cunningham, a former White House lawyer and CPRI executive director at UCI Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute, predicted that “Congress and the president will try to ban TikTok,” and “it’ll be a complete failure,” partly because “it’s not enforceable.”
“I don’t know how you think you’re gonna get the app off of tens of millions” of people’s phones, Cunningham said. “Are we gonna have border checkpoints where they look at your phone and see if the app is on there?” He said his young daughters would drive to Canada to put TikTok on their phones if they had to, and McSherry pointed out that many users would simply use a VPN service to access the app and skirt the ban. Advertisement
Cunningham said that in his view, concerns about the CCP using TikTok to spy on Americans were “very real,” but “there’s better ways to address them” than a ban. He agreed with McSherry that better data privacy laws would help to limit surveillance.
And TikTokers might even be totally onboard with going that route, Literat said. Her research shows that while young people using TikTok don’t seem to take the threat of a ban seriouslyand joked relentlessly about non-tech-savvy Congress members grilling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chewthey are genuinely concerned about data privacy on social media.
McSherry said that in the past two years, she’s seen lawmakers get more serious about passing data privacy laws that would be “a non-performative way to actually help the citizenry” avoid tech company surveillance.
From the national security standpoint, Cunningham said that the threat goes beyond data privacy, though, and also raises concerns about the CCP manipulating TikTok’s algorithm to sow disinformation, restrict content, or push propaganda. To solve that problem, he recommended what he called a little-discussed alternative to the ban: imposing economic sanctions on TikTok owner ByteDance.
“Congress could give the president the authority, if he doesn’t have it, to impose economic sanctions on ByteDance,” Cunningham said.
Ars Frontiers is all about innovation, and both McSherry and Cunningham pointed out that new apps could emerge to replace TikTok at any point. This is one reason why focusing policy on one app seems extremely short-sighted. But for approximately 150 million Americans on TikTok today, Literat suggested that, at least for now, TikTok appears irreplaceable.
TikTok “has cemented this rolein our cultural imagination,” Literat said.”And it does have thatrole in young people’s lives,and I think it’s gonna bereally hard for a platformto just supplant that.That takes time.And, of course, users careabout where their friends are,where their peers are, and right now,they are on TikTok. So it would have to bea pretty mass migration,and I don’t see that happening yet to other platforms.” reader comments 12 with Ashley Belanger Ashley is a senior policy reporter for Ars Technica, dedicated to tracking social impacts of emerging policies and new technologies. She is a Chicago-based journalist with 20 years of experience. Advertisement Channel Ars Technica ← Previous story Next story → Related Stories Today on Ars
Binance lawyers allege SEC Chair Gensler offered to serve as advisor to crypto company in 2019
SEC Chair Gary Gensler mocks putting a gun to his head in response to a “Blazing Saddles” reference by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., during the House Financial Services Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
SEC Chair Gary Gensler, who is in the midst of a hefty crackdown on crypto companies, offered to serve as an advisor to Binance’s parent company in 2019, according to the lawyers for Binance and founder Changpeng Zhao.
Documents filed by the SEC on Wednesday indicate that attorneys from Gibson Dunn and Latham & Watkins, two of Binance’s law firms, allege that Gensler offered to serve as an advisor to the crypto exchange in several March 2019 conversations with Binance executives and Zhao. He eventually met Zhao in Japan for lunch later that month, the filing claims.
At the time, Gensler was teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He was appointed head of the SEC in 2021 by President Biden, and over the past year has come down hard on the crypto industry, suing numerous companies for allegedly selling unregistered securities.
Earlier this week, the SEC filed 13 charges against Binance and Zhao, alleging the company failed to register as an exchange and broker-dealer, improperly commingled funds and lacked critical internal controls over its businesses.
Before Gensler started going after Binance, he was trying to cozy up to the company, the lawyers say. The Wall Street Journal previously reported on Gensler and Binance’s relationship, citing internal Binance messages and a person close to the SEC chair. Both suggested that Binance approached Gensler.
In the latest filing, the Gibson and Latham attorneys say that Zhao continued to stay in touch with Gensler after the March meeting. And at the future SEC chair’s request, Zhao sat down for an interview with Gensler as part of a cryptocurrency course he was teaching at MIT.
The SEC on Tuesday described Zhao, who reportedly resides in the UAE, as a “foreign national” with a tendency for “geographic elusiveness.” Zhao’s lawyers now say that the Zhao understood that Gensler was “comfortable serving as an informal advisor.”
Later in 2019, the letter said, Gensler was slated to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, and he sent Zhao a copy of his intended testimony ahead of the hearing.
In July of that year, Gensler testified before the House over Facebook’s proposed and later canceled cryptocurrency Libra and its planned Calibra wallet.
“I do not advise any financial, technology, blockchain or other companies, nor do I own any cryptocurrencies,” Gensler’s prepared testimony read.
Gensler’s advice to lawmakers at the time was largely the same as his public statements today. He said that, with Facebook envisioning a wallet to store customer assets, rules needed to be in place “to guard against Calibra’s use or potential abuse of such customer funds.”
He also testified more broadly in language that’s resembles his latest pronouncements.
“We must guard against illicit activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing and avoiding sanctions,” he said at the time. “We must protect individuals’ privacy.”
Because of Gensler’s ties to Zhao, Binance’s lawyers said they’d asked for his recusal from any actions regarding the company. They say they got no acknowledgement from SEC staff.
An SEC spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that, “the Chair is very familiar with and full compliance with his ethical obligations including any recusal obligations.”
The SEC’s probes into Binance.US and Binance began in 2020 and 2021, respectively, well after Gensler and Zhao’s last alleged contact.
NIO sets YTD order intake record after new ES6 launch in May
NIO’s new ES6 already looks to be a key factor as the EV maker looks to expand its brand and compete in the booming Chinese electric vehicle market. According to Morgan Stanley, NIO hit a new year-to-date order intake record aided by the launch of the second-generation ES6.
After launching what many consider its most important model to date two weeks ago with its second-gen ES6 electric SUV, NIO has seen increased interest in the brand.
Although NIO was the only major EV maker in China to see a monthly sales decline in May, delivering 6,155 models (down 8% from April), the company has a plan to turn things around… and it already looks to be paying off.
Although the ES6 has been the company’s top seller since launching in 2018 as a more affordable option to the ES8, NIO knew it was time for an upgrade.
The EV maker is focusing on its NT 2.0 EV platform vehicles, including the recently launched EC7, second-generation ES8, ET5, and ES7 models. All NT 2.0 models are built on the NIO Adam supercomputer using four Nvidia DRIVE Orin system-on-chips (SoCs).
New ES6 boosts NIO’s order intake to record YTD high
A research report released last week from the Chinese consumer behavior research agency CarFans highlighted consumer behavior in NIO stores within the first 72 hours of launching (May 24 to May 27) the new ES6.
The report found each NIO store received 90 pre-orders on average, with around 20 confirmations that included a down payment.
With roughly 330 stores, that’s around 29,700 pre-orders or 6,600 confirmations. For just three days, that’s pretty impressive for a premium SUV.
Although the cancellation rate is expected to be around 10%, the new ES6 is already leading to a new order intake record for the year, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Tim Hsiao (via CnEVPost).
In a research note on June 5, Hsiao said the firm had been tracking feedback from startups’ major sales channels in Tier 1 cities since last year to analyze the market. The team shared data that confirmed the new ES6 accounted for 35% to 40% of new orders in May, suggesting a meaningful impact on inflow as it launched in the final week of the month.
NIO’s overall traffic at flagship stores rose 30% to 40% month-over-month, with momentum continuing into early June. The new ES6 is NIO’s cheapest electric SUV, starting at RMB 368,000 ($51,614).
Meanwhile, the team said that despite customer traffic at the stores it tracks returning to levels seen this February, they are still “20% below last September’s level when the company rolled out ET5.”
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Vineyard Wind 1’s first turbine blades arrive in the US
The first turbine blades for Vineyard Wind 1, the US’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, have arrived at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal in Massachusetts.
The $3.5 billion offshore wind farm will feature 62 GE Haliade-X 13-megawatt (MW) turbines spaced one nautical mile apart. The first turbine blades – each one 107 meters (351 feet) long – arrived at the Port of New Bedford (pictured above) from GE’s production site in Nazaire, France, on the heavy load vessel Rolldock Sky. (And no, it’s not lost on us, either, that wind turbine blades arrived on a fossil fuel vessel. May we collectively resolve that ironic problem ASAP.)
The turbine sections will be assembled at the terminal before they’re shipped out and installed this summer.
The 800 MW Vineyard Wind 1 is 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and 35 miles from mainland Massachusetts. It’s a 50-50 joint venture between clean energy company Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) funds CI II and CI III.
Vineyard Wind I will supply clean energy for over 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts and reduce carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year. It’s expected to come online at the end of 2023.
Read more: This US offshore wind farm is piloting a bubble curtain – what it is and why it’s cool
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