News Release

If TikTok is Tool of China, Aren’t Facebook, Google and Twitter Tools of U.S. Gov’t?

YASHA LEVINE, mail at yashalevine.com, @yashalevine

Levine is author of the book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet. He just wrote the piece “TikTok, imperialism, and the end of internet utopianism,” which states: “‪You’ve probably heard about this whole TikTok business. Donald Trump has given the company 45 days to either sell itself to an American firm or be banished from our borders. So it looks like TikTok is going to be forced to sell to a bunch of drooling Silicon Valley oligarchs for pennies on the dollar. ‘Nice viral app you got there, kid. Would be a shame if something were to happen to it. Hey, we just want to help out!’

“A bipartisan War With China campaign has been building for quite a while now, so something like this ban was just a matter of time. What’s incredible is how many influential people on the prog-left are cheering it on. …

“To me the most interesting part of this ban is that it shows that Internet utopianism is pretty much dead. Don’t know about you, but the sooner we bury that corpse the better.

“From the start of the dot com boom, Silicon Valley and America’s political elite have done a great job of marketing the Internet as a totally new type of technology — a utopian system that’s removed from American imperial and business interests. Google? Facebook? Apple? eBay? These companies aren’t extensions of American imperial power. No way! They’re neutral technological platforms involved in connecting and empowering people. They’re serving users with digital democracy, regardless of their nationality or politics. They’re post-ideological and post-historical!

“For a long time a lot of people believed this sales pitch. Even Silicon Valley bought into its own hype.

“Of course, this idea of technological neutrality was itself extremely ideological and underpinned by massive historical revisionism. As I show in my book Surveillance Valley, the Internet has always been an instrument of American economic and military power. The Internet has always been a weapon — ever since it was developed by the Pentagon in the 1960s and then unleashed on the world in the early 1990s.

“This ban of TikTok proves my point.

“But there’s something bigger going on, too. It shows that no one really believes in Silicon Valley global utopianism anymore.

“Read reporting on the issue and you’ll find that a kind of paranoid realpolitik prevails these days. No one talks about the Internet being a post-political platform. Now it’s all about how technology can be weaponized by a rival power against American interests. If an Internet company is Chinese, it naturally must be an extension of Chinese national power. If a company is Russian, the Russian government must be benefiting from its use somehow. And if a company is American — like Google or Facebook — it of course must pledge allegiance to American imperial interests. And Google and Facebook publicly agree.”