Por: José Manuel Álvarez Lucio

Just a week after the Executive Order on Addressing the Threat posed by TikTok, many people are still wondering if this is a publicity stunt or if it is opening a new chapter in the ongoing US-China “economic cold war”. However, we must not forget that President Trump is nothing close to a barking dog doesn´t bite type of politician, and has many times gotten away with harsh and controversial decisions one way or the other (e.g. the wall). With presidential elections just 80 days away and many polls giving Biden as much as a 15% advantage in July, waters needed to be stirred up and there is no better way than to continue putting an enemy on the map that has constantly been signaled and accused, especially since Covid-19 came to be.

So, what does Trump gain by pretending to ban the fastest growing social media in the US and most downloaded app in the world today? Well, for starters, he doesn´t have much to lose. Stats compiled by Hootsuite show that the 13-24-year-old segments represent 69% of the users of the app, meaning that the people directly affected by an eventual shut down either do not vote, or belong to the lowest voter turnout age-group (46.1% in 2016 according to the US Census Bureau). Moreover, this decision appears to appeal the nationalist and strong-hand voting Americans who are lured into believing these types of measures are necessary for means of national security. Foreign policy has always been a core campaign issue in elections, as the US has been longing to regain the economic and political leadership it has been losing to countries like China and Russia in the beginning of the XXI century. Being the motherland of internationally leading apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (which have also been accused of espionage and misuse of user data), ironically, it looks like the land of the free and home of the brave is not willing to have free economic competition with uprising foreign tech companies. Going 45 days in the future, what would happen if TikTok becomes banned in the US because no American company bought it or because it didn´t want to sell the license? My guess is that Reels from Instagram (Facebook Company), Byte from Vine, or a very similar app would be available and could easily take the empty space. So, what does Trump gain? Another “Make America Great Again” moment.

Looking on this matter from the international community´s perspective, some may point out that accusing Chinese companies of espionage can easily backlash at the US for the same reasons, or that this attacks people´s freedom of expression, but most can say, that in this specific case, there is a principle of reciprocity or a long awaited reaction to Chinese ban of many websites and apps like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and many more. Nevertheless, while it looks like time has run out for this app in the United States, prohibition is sometimes the best advertisement any product can get, so we can expect a boom in many countries in the days to come.  

José Manuel Alvarez Lucio es economista por la UMSNH y maestro en gestión pública por el Tecnológico de Monterrey. Cuenta con Diplomados y Cursos Internacionales en Políticas Públicas para el Desarrollo Democrático, Evaluación de Programas y Políticas Públicas, Gestión en la Calidad de Gobiernos Locales, entre otros.
En el sector público se ha desempeñado como asesor legislativo en el Congreso del Estado de Michoacán y en el Senado de la República.
Fue director fundador del Centro de Estudios y Formación Política y candidato a regidor para el ayuntamiento de Morelia por la vía independiente en 2018.
Ha sido columnista y analista político en Quadratín, CB Television, Radiotele, EXA y VOX.
Actualmente es docente en el Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Morelia, en dónde fue galardonado con el premio “Profesor Inspirador 2020.”