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The US Government Is Still Threatening To Ban TikTok

TikTok told the media this week that US federal officers are demanding that the Chinese Owners of the app sell their stake in the social media app, or they risk facing a US ban of the app due to security concerns.

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US House Of Representatives Banned From Using TikTok On Their Electronic Devices 

According to an internal notice sent to the staff of the House of Representatives – obtained by CNN from the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer – TikTok has been banned from any and all electronic devices used and owned by members of the House of Representatives and prospective staff.

The notice stated that the app must be uninstalled from any House mobile device if it’s already installed. This is due to the government’s view of TikTok being a “high risk to users due to a number of security risks.” 

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The US government has also been in talks to ban TikTok from all federal devices in the near future. This ban is a part of a piece of legislation included in the omnibus bill recently signed by President Joe Biden. More than a dozen states throughout the US have also already implemented their own restrictions and prohibitions on TikTok on government devices.

While TikTok hasn’t made any official comment regarding this recent ban on House devices, the company previously stated that the government’s moves to ban the app is a “political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests.”

One of the biggest concerns coming from lawmakers regarding TikTok involves the social media app’s parent company, ByteDance. 

US policymakers are concerned about national security and the risk of the Chinese government pressuring either TikTok or its parent company into acquiring, using, and sharing personal information specifically from its US users. 

This information is thought to be potentially used for Chinese intelligence operations or the sharing of disinformation backed by China’s government. 

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While there hasn’t been any direct instances or attempts of these security breaches occurring, the platform did confirm last week that four employees were fired for accessing user data on TikTok from two journalists. 

The battle between the US government and TikTok has been ongoing since 2020, when the app truly began rising in popularity; partially due to the pandemic and quarantine restrictions that left citizens at home yearning for entertainment. 

Both the government and the platform have been working on negotiations to resolve any potential national security risks so that the app can continue to be used by US citizens. 

“The potential agreement under review covers key concerns around corporate governance, content recommendation and moderation, and data security and access,” TikTok has stated

For now, the US government is moving forward with its plans to ban the social media platform from all government used/connected devices, with the potential for wider bans to be implemented in the future.

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US Government Files Major Lawsuit Against Facebook

Dozens of state and federal government bodies have sued Facebook in twin antitrust lawsuits that allege the social media platform has “abused its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaged in anticompetitive behavior.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is specifically seeking a permanent injunction to be made in federal court that would require Facebook to divest its assets, which includes popular social media apps Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans. Facebook‘s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement to the press. 

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The multiple lawsuits have been months in the making and reflect a major point of contention that has existed in the tech industry for awhile now. Facebook acquired Instagram back in 2012 in a deal worth $1 billion. Two years later it announced that it was buying WhatsApp in a deal that was worth $19 billion. 

New York Attorney General Letita James made an announcement around 14 months ago that claimed her office was leading a group of attorneys in investigating Facebook for alleged anti competitive practices. More than 40 attorneys general signed onto the complaint that was filed against the platform this week. The FTC investigation has been completely separate from what James has been working on, however, the two legal complaints essentially regard the same issues. 

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition.”

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James continues to claim that “by using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company perceived to be potential threats.” The New York state suit involves a court order that demands Facebook notify state officials of any future business deals and acquisitions worth $10 million or more. 

Facebook has over 3 billion users worldwide across its portfolio of apps. The dominance has raised a lot of concerns for competing platforms and brands in the industry, especially with the way that Facebook has been involved in the elections and with Trump’s administration in general. Google was involved in a similar federal suit this year after it was alleged that the company had “stifled its competition” in order to maintain its power as the most popular search engine. 

The issue of having “too much power” has existed within the tech industry since the dawn of its creation. Potential anticompetitive behavior is the most prominent in that industry in particular, and is one of the greatest threats to the way our economy works, according to the lawsuits. For Facebook, government officials will now work to prove that the company’s misconduct led to real-world harms to its competitors, and users. 

In another allegation, state officials claim that Facebook has opened up its platform to third-party app developers, however, once the multi-billion dollar company perceives those developers as a threat, it cuts off its services and funding as a means of killing it before it grows too large. 

The White House

President-Elect Joe Biden Reveals Health Team That Will Lead Future Pandemic Response

Joe Biden and his administration made the announcement this Monday that they had decided on the team that would be guiding the nation in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic once Biden takes office in January.

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TikTok Has Two Weeks To Reach A Deal With The US 

After TikTok seemed to have avoided the Trump administration’s fight to get the app shut down, the US government quietly told the social media platform that it has 15 days – until November 27th- to persuade US national security officials and agencies that its proposed deal with Oracle and Walmart should be approved. 

Under the executive order that President Donald Trump signed this summer, this past Thursday was the original deadline set in place for ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to hand the app over to Walmart and Oracle. However, as the date approached, no one really understood what was going to happen with the app. The country is in the middle of the worst health crisis it’s seen in decades, not to mention one of the most turbulent times politically, so the transition of power for a simple social media app hasn’t exactly been top priority. 

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The order itself that came from Trump didn’t even mention any consequences should TikTok miss the original deadline, and its overall sense of ambiguity was a solid reflection on Trump’s actual feelings regarding the app; which was already being run from a base in America, despite the current president’s constant claims that China was using the app to steal data from its 100 million users. 

TikTok told a federal judge this past Friday, however, that the US government had granted the company’s request for an extension on the date. TikTok still needs to fight for its current proposed deal that would give ownership rights to Oracle and Walmart, however, there’s a lot more breathing room considering a majority of the government’s focus right now is on the transition of power between Trump and Biden and combating the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In theory, if Trump’s executive order went into full effect as he intended, any business dealings made between TikTok and the US would be made illegal. The US Commerce Department attempted to enforce Trump’s order by trying to ban TikTok app downloads from the app store in September. The agency also said at the time that by mid-November internet companies would be banned from carrying TikTok content. 

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Both of those measures were temporarily blocked by a federal judge after TikTok and TikTok creators sued the government in separate cases. Regardless of those cases, Trump had a second executive order that required ByteDance to divest TikTok by November 12th. The order didn’t give any specifics as to what the deal needed to look like, nor what TikTok would need to do to survive in the US, nor what would happen should the app refuse to comply. 

Regardless, TikTok did come up with a plan that gave Oracle and Walmart the power to make TikTok headquartered in the US with a majority of US investors taking ownership over the platform. Trump did tentatively approve this deal in September when it was initially announced, however, the arrangement has still yet to be finalized. 

For now, TikTok has another 15 days to finalize all the details of their deal with oracle and Walmart. In the meantime users will still be able to access the app and download it from the app store.

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Boeing Under Fire For ‘Gambling With Public Safety’ After Two Crashes 

According to a report from US politicians, Boeing has jeopardized the safety of passengers by cutting certain costs and ignoring software flaws that contributed to two fatal crashes. The cut costs and software flaws mainly existed in the development of Boeing’s 737 Max, an aircraft that has since been grounded indefinitely. 

The first crash occurred in 2018 and involved a Lion Air 737 Max, and the second occurred in 2019 at an Ethiopian Airlines; in total 346 individuals were killed between both crashes. The committee on transportation and infrastructure – made up of members of the House of representatives – in the US published their report on Wednesday, and within the report they claim that “there have been repeated and serious failures by Boeing and its regulator, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in allowing the faulty aircraft to carry passengers.”

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Democratic representative Peter DeFazio is the committee’s chair and expressed that Boeing and the FAA “gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.” He attributes these failings to a “broken” safety culture at the company, and several gaps in the system that the FAA uses to regulate safety systems on these planes. These gaps are what led to the fatal crashes. 

After new reports of software fixes and new rounds of testing for the 737 Max plane, Boeing is hoping to re-certify the aircraft for public use. Between the coronavirus pandemic and these recent failings from Boeing, the company has had to cut over 16,000 jobs, so they’re hoping the re-certification of the 737 can help them recover. 

Boeing has been under investigation for the past 18 months, and within that investigation officials found that the company had cut some major costs in order to compete with its biggest competitor, Airbus. The report from the US government claims that this competition added an extreme financial strain to Boeing’s spending, which led to even more cut corners. 

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“Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 Max program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 Max production line. There are several instances where the desire to meet these goals and expectations jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The report also found that Boeing had made some major errors in their aircraft design, specifically regarding the system put in place for the pilot should a crucial system malfunction during a flight. This system is referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and it was initially designed to push the nose of the plane down during certain flying conditions to prevent it from stalling. However, this system kicked in on both fatal flights shortly after takeoff because of a faulty sensor. 

The report also criticized the FAA greatly on their relationship with Boeing and complete lack of concern over these safety measures that have been overlooked. Boeing not only withheld information from the FAA, but were able to influence their regulator into approving certain flights for travel. 

Boeing is currently working on regaining regulatory approval for its 737 Max aircraft, and the company has “full confidence in its safety,” however, the real test will be to see what airlines continue to have a relationship with Boeing as time goes on.

Bill Gates And Panel Of Over 150 Medical Experts Calls On US To Shut Down Amid Pandemic Concerns

The US has now hit 4 million positive cases of Covid-19, prompting medical experts to call on the government to shut down again. There have been 4,038,748 positive cases of the coronavirus in the US since March with 144,304 deaths; and those numbers are consistently increasing.

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House Of Representatives Votes To Ban Federal Employees From Downloading TikTok

The House of Representatives voted yesterday to pass a proposal that bars all federal employees from downloading video-sharing social media app TikTok on government-issued devices. The proposal, which passed with a vote of 336-71, is a part of a much larger $741 billion defense policy bill.

In general, National security concerns about TikTok have risen within the past few weeks. The concerns stem from the fact that the app is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, and like with most social media apps, many are concerned that their personal information is falling into the wrong hands. TikTok has made countless statements refuting that any users personal information from the US is sent to where the apps headquarters are based in Beijing, and even claimed that for US users TikTok has their own CEO based in America. 

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“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” one spokesperson said.

The initial proposal was brought to the table by Republican Colorado Representative Ken Buck as a part of other “bipartisan amendments to be made to the National Defense Authorization Act.” The proposal would ban TikTok on government-issued devices for employees that extend into Congress as well as congressional staff. 

Despite TikTok’s claims that they haven’t given any user information to the Chinese government, and would refute if asked to do so, federal government workers in Washington aren’t so convinced, and have continued to push for the app, along with other Chinese run social media apps, to be banned in the US completely. 

Buck made a floor speech before the House voted on the proposal where he expressed his major concerns over the app especially in regards to government employees who have sensitive and classified information on their devices. 

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“TikTok is a serious national security threat…the data the company collects from US consumers could be used in a cyber attack against our republic.” 

The US is not alone in their security concerns over TikTok specifically either. India recently announced they would be banning the app along with 58 other apps that are developed by Chinese firms. The banning comes after similar concerns arose among the federal government in India, claiming that the apps “threatened the national security and defense of India.”

As previously mentioned this proposal is just one of many amendments that will be made to the National Defense Authorization Act. The next step will be the House passing their new version of the NDAA with the new amendments implemented. Once passed, the Senate will then decide whether or not to pass it along further later this week; it’s expected that both groups will approve of the new amendments. 

Beyond the NDAA, the Senate of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to consider new legislation that will be presented by Senators Rick Scott and Josh Hawley this Wednesday. This new legislation is similar to the proposal that was passed yesterday, barring federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, but if passed by both federal groups, the prohibition could soon become law in the US. 

Even further, the Trump administration has been very public about their consideration of a national ban on TikTok and other Chinese-linked social media apps. However, only time will tell how easy that would actually be for the administration to accomplish. 

Corona Virus 3D

Healthcare Officials Fear Massive Second-Wave Of Covid-19 After 19+ States Report Spikes In Cases

Weeks after stay-at-home orders have been lifted across the nation fears of an even worse second-wave of Covid-19 appear after 20+ states report record numbers of hospitalizations within this past week. Many scientists and health care experts are already claiming that states will have to go back under shut down within the next few months if the curve continues to increase at the rate that it is. 

The emphasis on re-closing these states lies in the fact that many of these experts strongly believe a second wave of the coronavirus will hit the US much harder than the first time; America’s now lost over 115,000 citizens, for comparison around 116,000 American lives were lost during World War 1. 

“The pandemic is far from over. More than 115,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, and hundreds more are dying from the virus every day. Covid’s not taking a summer vacation, it’s actually having new opportunities to spread,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert and professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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The biggest concern over a second shutdown is the economic impact, as of right now more than 44 million Americans have lost their jobs since March when this pandemic initially began. Unfortunately, the fear over shutting down the economy again is driving the decision making in the White House, as more states and cities are continuing to open. 

Health care experts have been quick to point out that places like Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, have all had to endure a second wave of shutdowns due to new cases of Covid reappearing after they reopened. Japan’s second largest island, Hokkaido, also reopened too prematurely leading to a resurgence in cases, however, after their second shutdown they completely eradicated the island of the virus. 

If American citizens want to avoid a second shutting down of the economy, they simply need to continue to abide by the CDC’s health and safety guidelines, regardless of what establishments are reopening in their particular state. This virus is still very much a pandemic issue especially in America, which has been one of the most impacted countries in the world due to its casual response to the virus. 

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“People must observe the safety guidelines, social distancing must be observed. Face coverings in key places must be observed. We’ve got to take action now so that we avoid a shutdown in the future,” said top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

The more recent spikes in cases are likely due to the many Memorial Day Weekend gatherings that occurred a few weeks ago based on the timeline of how this virus works and moves; hence the emphasis on continuing to wear a mask and socially distant. 

The economic impact of a second-wave of shutdowns will likely destroy a majority of our economy unless our federal government takes more direct action to fund the proper resources and facilities to help combat this virus. However, we can still continue to do our part in remaining vigilant and protecting ourselves and loved ones from potential infection.