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China Revises Law To Put Itself in Control of Whether TikTok Can Be Sold To an American Company

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  • China revised a law on Friday that it had not changed since 2008 in an attempt to stop TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, from selling the app to a foreign company without the Chinese government’s permission. 
  • ByteDance announced Sunday that it would “strictly abide” by the new law. 
  • CNBC reported that ByteDance has agreed to a deal and that the details of that agreement could be made available as soon as Tuesday; however, China’s new rule could complicate any potential deal. 

China’s Revises Law Ahead of TikTok Deal

A new law in China could potentially complicate or even halt the sale of TikTok to an American company. 

On Friday, the Chinese government revised its rules around the sale of certain types of technology to foreign buyers in an attempt to “formalize the management of technology export” and “protect national security.”

The list of changes includes data processing, speech, and text recognition — all tech that TikTok uses in its app.

China’s rule change never directly mentions TikTok or even its parent company, ByteDance, but this is the first time those rules have been revised since 2008. The change would likely require ByteDance to obtain government permission before selling TikTok to a foreign company. 

Speaking to state-run news agency Xinhua, trade expert Cui Fan said that ByteDance should “seriously and carefully consider whether it is necessary to suspend substantive negotiations on relevant transactions.”

“For the international business to continue to operate smoothly, no matter who its new owner and operator are,” Cui told the agency, “it is highly likely that there will need to be a transfer of software codes or right of use from inside China to outside China.”

According to Bloomberg News, it could take up to 30 days for ByteDance to get the green light to export AI.

Why Did China Change the Rules?

China doubled down on criticism of the United States Monday by accusing the U.S. government of “abusing the national security concept and state power to suppress specific businesses of other countries.”

“The U.S.’s attempt to take economic bullying and political manipulation against non-American companies, whether it is politically coerced transaction or government enforced transaction, is no different from plundering,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

In an interview with CNN Business, Anupam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown University, said that the law change is essentially a way for China “to exert some leverage over the situation.”

“Beijing wants to protect its ascending status in global technology,” Political economist Shirley Yu also told the outlet. 

Yu added that if the U.S. were to succeed in buying TikTok, “China would be concerned that, as its technology companies continue to ascend, more Chinese companies… might be targeted by the United States in a similar way.”

TikTok Bidder Has Reportedly Been Chosen

ByteDance responded Sunday by announcing that it will “strictly abide” by China’s rule change. 

There has been massive anticipation for a deal to be reached. On Monday, CNBC reported that a bidder has been chosen for TikTok’s U.S., New Zealand, and Australian businesses. According to sources who spoke to the outlet, that deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday.

That follows a similar report from Fox Business that later turned out to be inaccurate. On Friday, Fox predicted that confirmation of a signed and binding deal to purchase U.S. assets of TikTok could have come as early as this past weekend. 

Still, the deadline for ByteDance to reach a deal in the U.S. is rapidly approaching. On August 14, President Donald Trump signed an order requiring ByteDance to divest away from U.S. TikTok operations within 90 days. If that doesn’t happen, the app could essentially be banned in the U.S.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance… might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” the president said in the order.

TikTok has repeatedly denied that claim, saying that U.S. user data is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore. It’s also affirmed that its data centers for U.S. users are located outside of China. 

According to analysts, there are currently two front-runners in the race to acquire TikTok: the software company Oracle, as well as Microsoft, which has now teamed up with Walmart. 

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that TikTok’s rival-app, Triller, had submitted a $20 billion bid for the company; however, there has been ample confusion since, as a spokesperson for TikTok later denied that claim. 

“We can confirm that we are not and will not be in talks with them,” the spokesperson said. “Still, we are flattered by how much they admire TikTok.”

On Monday, Triller Executive Chair Bobby Sarnevesht denied that Triller’s claim was part of a publicity stunt and affirmed that the company had submitted a bid to buy TikTok. 

“Our bid is submitted,” he said to CNBC. “We have confirmation that the chairman and people pretty high up at ByteDance are aware of it. And we have correspondence going. I know they are considering what the next step is to do.”

Following his comments, ByteDance and TikTok again said refuted the claim, saying that they are unaware of any such bid and that no one from either company has even spoken to Triller on the matter. 

Experts expect the winning bidder to shell out anywhere from $20 to $30 billion for TikTok.

See what others are saying: (CNN Business) (CNBC) (The Verge)

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JoJo Siwa Fans Caution Against Labeling the Star’s Sexuality

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  • JoJo Siwa was featured in two TikTok videos Wednesday that many felt signaled her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • One showed her dancing and lip-syncing to Paramore’s “Aint It Fun,” along with members of the TikTok group Pride House LA. Siwa specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us,” which is also the caption of the post. 
  • The second video showed her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.  
  • The 17-year-old entertainer has not directly addressed speculations about her sexuality, prompting many to caution against labeling her.

JoJo Siwa TikToks Trigger Sexuality Speculations

JoJo Siwa fans are urging the public not to label the 17-year-old entertainer’s sexuality, especially when she has not explicitly done so herself.

The request came after Siwa became a trending topic Wednesday when many speculated that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

The speculations stem from two TikTok videos she was featured in. The first was posted on choreographer Kent Boyd’s account. It features him and other members of the TikTok group Pride House LA, which includes several stars from Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie.”

It showed them all lip-syncing and dancing along to Paramore’s hit song “Ain’t It Fun.” Siaw specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us.” That lyric was also the caption of the post.

@kentboyd_

Now your one of us!! @itsjojosiwa @molleegray @garrettclayton91 @jekajane #pridehousela

♬ now ur one of us – Mia Mugavero

Later in the day, Siwa posted a video on her personal TikTok account that featured her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem. 

Part of the lyrics she sang along to were: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.” 

Reactions

These posts really started all the rumors online, and things picked up when influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and others expressed their support.

Many fans also left comments on the videos saying they were proud of her, and journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “This feels like a big deal if it is what I think it is…JoJo Siwa is hugely popular with kids.”

“And as someone just pointed out, if it is what I think it is, she’s doing it at the height of her fame when she’s selling out arenas,” he continued.

Despite the wave of praise, other fans feel that it’s inappropriate and harmful to make speculations about anyone’s sexuality.

Many have even shared their own experiences coming out, reminding people not to label Siwa as anything until she explicitly chooses to share that information herself. 

While Siwa hasn’t directly addressed any of the responses as of yet, she has retweeted a post that features her video, the pride flag emoji, and the caption, “@itsjojosiwa is on the right track, she was born this way.”

Still, others also noted that she has publicly asked Lady Gaga to collaborate with her in the past, so perhaps this is a signal about that happening soon.

Others believe it could also be Siwa’s way of signaling that she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Metro) (Teen Vogue)

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Google Investigates Top AI Researcher Who Was Looking Into a Previous Firing

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  • Google is investigating the co-leader of its Ethical AI team, Margaret Mitchell.
  • While Mitchell has not been fired, her account has been locked because Google said she “exfiltrated thousands of files” and shared them with people outside of the company. 
  • In a tweet, Mitchell indicated that she had been “documenting current critical issues” related to the firing of another Google AI Ethicist in December.
  • Sources reportedly told Axios that Mitchell had been specifically looking for messages that showed discriminatory treatment of that fired researcher.

Google Investigates Margaret Mitchell

On Tuesday, Google stated that it is now investigating the co-leader of its Ethical Al team, Margaret Mitchell.

Mitchell has reportedly not been fired, but her company email account has been locked.

According to Google, its security systems automatically lock employee accounts “when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.”

In this case, Google said Mitchell “exfiltrated thousands of files” and then shared them with people outside of the company. 

Why Did Mitchell Begin Looking Through Files?

Mitchell’s investigation is related to the ousting of another top AI ethicist at Google, Timnit Gebru, who was fired at the beginning of December. 

Before Gebru was fired, managers reportedly instructed her to withdraw an unpublished research paper upon her return from vacation. In an email to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies, Gebru then voiced frustration at managers for allegedly making the decision without her input. 

“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company,” Gebru said in a critique of the decision. 

Gebru’s firing led to such a massive outcry from Google employees that Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged to investigate the situation. 

On Friday, Mitchell indicated in a tweet that she was also looking into Gebru’s firing, saying that she was “documenting current critical issues from [Gebru’s] firing, point by point, inside and outside work.”

According to Axios, sources have said that Mitchell used automated scripts to siphon through messages that potentially document discriminatory treatment against Gebru.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (Bloomberg)

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Trump Ban Was the “Right Decision” But Sets “Dangerous” Precedent

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  • While defending Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, CEO Jack Dorsey noted the “dangerous” precedent such a move set.
  • “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning.”
  • Dorsey’s message came the same day Twitter fully reinstated Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Co.) account, hours after locking it for violating Twitter rules. A Twitter spokesperson later described the lock as an “incorrect enforcement action.”

Dorsey Describes Trump Ban as a Double-Edged Sword

In a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey defended his platform’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, while also noting the “dangerous” precedent such a unilateral move sets.

Twitter made the decision to ban Trump on Jan. 8, two days after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol complex in an assault that left multiple dead.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [Trump] from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said in the first of 13 tweets. 

Nonetheless, Dorsey described Trump’s ban as “the right decision for Twitter.”

“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he added.

“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey continued.

“[It] sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

Dorsey described most bans as a failure of Twitter to “promote healthy conversation,” though he noted that exceptions to such a mindset also exist. Among other failures, Dorsey said extreme actions like a ban can “fragment public conversation,” divide people, and limit “clarification, redemption, and learning.”

Dorsey: Trump Bans Were Not Coordinated

Dorsey continued his thread by addressing claims and criticism that Trump’s ban on Twitter violated free speech.

“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he said.

Indeed, multiple legal experts have stated that Trump’s ban on social media does not amount to First Amendment violations, as the First Amendment only addresses government censorship. 

“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service,” Dorsey added. However, Dorsey noted that such a concept has been challenged over the past week. 

Trump has now been banned or suspended from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On Wednesday, Snapchat announced plans to terminate Trump’s account in the “interest of public safety.” Previously, Snapchat had only suspended his account, but as of Jan. 20, it will be permanently banned. 

Addressing criticism of the swift bans handed down by these platforms in the wake of the Capitol attack, Dorsey said he doesn’t believe Trump’s bans on social media were coordinated.

“More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” he said.

Twitter Reverses Course of Locking Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Account

Dorsey’s thread regarding the fragile nature of regulating users’ privileges on the platform seemed to play out earlier the same day.

On Wednesday, newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) posted a screenshot to Instagram showing that her Twitter account had been locked for six days. The screenshot stated that she had violated Twitter’s rules and would be unable to tweet, retweet, or like until her account was unlocked. 

Hours later, Twitter reversed course and fully reinstated her account. 

“In this instance, our teams took the incorrect enforcement action. The Tweet in question is now labeled in accordance with our Civic Integrity Policy. The Tweet will not be required to be removed and the account will not be temporarily locked,” a spokesperson for the platform told Insider.

It is unknown what tweet caused that initial ban, as Twitter refused to say. 

The latest tweet from Boebert’s account to be tagged with a fact check warning is from Sunday. In that tweet, she baselessly and falsely accuses the DNC of rigging the 2020 Election, a claim that largely inspired the Capitol attacks. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (Associated Press)

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