This week’s podcast is about why Americans must protect TikTok.
- TikTok is not the big and proven threat to freedom and privacy. The US Censorship Regime is.
- For now, TikTok is necessary to break the censorship monopoly and restore free speech to Silicon Valley.
Here is the link to the TechMoat Consulting.
Here is the link to the China Tech Tour.
Here is the statement by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
Here is Glenn Greenwald’s System Update
- 3 Types of Network Effects (Asia Tech Strategy – Daily Lesson / Update)
- Questions for Huawei’s CEO, JD & Jingxi, Metcalfe’s Law Is Dumb (Asia Tech Strategy)
From the Concept Library, concepts for this article are:
- Information flows
- Social media
From the Company Library, companies for this article are:
Episode 159 – tiktok.1.transcribe
Fri, May 05, 2023 11:46AM • 43:28
information, people, banned, media, censorship, call, argument, TikTok, company, values, mark zuckerberg, put, flows, china, twitter, government, digital strategy, social media, promoted, mosque
Jeffrey Towson 00:00
Welcome, welcome, everybody. My name is Jeff Towson, and this is the tech strategy podcast where we analyze the best digital businesses of the US, China and Asia. And the topic for today, why American citizens must protect TikTok. So I guess a little bit political, it’s kind of big news. It’s been in the papers everywhere. TikTok was before Congress congressional hearing last week, a lot going on the bill that this is related to is now moving forward. And I thought I would give you the case that maybe you’re not hearing because you’re kind of most people are sort of saying the same thing, particularly in Washington DC about oh, yeah, let’s ban this thing, and blah, blah, I will argue the opposite. I think it is absolutely crucial to protect this company for at least the near future. And I’ll give you sort of the counter argument. And that’ll be the topic for today. So, a little bit, I don’t know, maybe not political. But I actually think there’s
Jeffrey Towson 01:02
this really comes down to how you view social media. And once you view it a certain way, I think these questions become clearer. And I think that’s a lot of what’s going on with information flows, social media communication, it’s understanding what these things are. So I think that’s sort of in the digital strategy category. Anyways, that will be the topic for today.
Jeffrey Towson 01:34
Let’s see any housekeeping stuff? I think not really, for those of you who are subscribers, I’m going to be sending you some pretty detailed stuff about Alibaba. They just announced a major reorganization pretty big, breaking into six business units. People are talking about that in terms of
Jeffrey Towson 01:53
the political issues of China, blah, blah, blah. I just got a literally just got an email from AFP asking for comments on that it was all political. I think it’s much more about business performance, and how you make a large company nimble, and more agile and more innovative and, you know, reignite growth. When you do things. I think it’s much more of a business impact than a political thing. But I’ll give you my take on that I have a couple articles coming for you in the next couple days on that. And I think that’s it for housekeeping stuff. standard disclaimer, nothing in this podcast or in my writing or website is investment advice. The numbers and information for me and any guests may be incorrect, the views and opinions expressed may no longer be relevant or accurate. Overall, investing is risky. This is not investment, legal, or tax advice, do your own research. And with that, let’s get into Tiktok. Now, I don’t really have any major concepts for today, sort of the two that I think are important in just sort of digital thinking digital strategy is obviously social media, which it’s a strange, strange animal. It’s a very sort of odd business model. And the other topic is probably information flows. If you if you listen to say,
Jeffrey Towson 03:09
Alan Jiang, you know, the leader WeChat. He talks about information flows all the time, not just on our phones, but in our lives, and where we hear things and to what degree those are controlled and manipulated. Once you start seeing the world in terms of information flows, not only across society, but just to yourself, you realize how much your reality is shaped by the information flows that you get presented by on a daily basis. And it raises the question of Are you act? Are you actively curating
Jeffrey Towson 03:44
your reality for the most part, your information flows, because it will change what you think it’ll change how you see the world, it’ll change how you feel. And it’s a really strange thing to think about curating your own reality. And it was other kind of two general ideas for today, but there aren’t any major concepts. So let me let me jump to the so what I’ll summarize the case for why tik shark is people are saying it should be banned. And but before I do that, I’ll give you a sort of a tee up to why I think it shouldn’t. So here’s the quick version of the counter argument. Basically, it comes down to tick tock is not the big and proven threat to freedom to privacy, to security of data.
Jeffrey Towson 04:34
The US censorship regime is and that phrase centralist censorship regime that comes from Glenn Greenwald, who is definitely worth following.
Jeffrey Towson 04:44
TikTok is not the proven threat. It’s a theoretical threat. I think it’s a theoretical and relatively small potential threat. I think the censorship regime is real. It’s absolutely proven. And we’ve just lived through several years of it. That’s the bit
Jeffrey Towson 05:00
Jeffrey Towson 05:02
So, point number two for now, tic tock is necessary to break that censorship, information monopoly.
Jeffrey Towson 05:14
And to restore free speech to Silicon Valley in particular, if you’re going to engage in censorship, you need a monopoly. It doesn’t work if you have 80%. You gotta have 100. Because otherwise it’s got, well, there’s a couple of ways that that call it a monopoly is being broken right now. And Tik Tok is one of them. So for now, it needs to be protected. Okay, so that’s my basic argument. Now, we’ll sort of get into digital strategy and how I get to that, which you may or may not agree with. That’s a, you know, that’s to a large degree of political argument, I suppose. Okay, so we start with this question.
Jeffrey Towson 05:54
Why is there such a uniform agreement in Washington DC and Silicon Valley? For banning Tiktok?
Jeffrey Towson 06:02
It’s uniform. In That’s strange, because, but one in Washington, DC. It’s unprecedented. The Democrats and the Republicans don’t agree on literally anything except for this.
Jeffrey Towson 06:18
So that’s strange. And then Silicon Valley seems to be for it as well. So that that kind of sets my my spider sense tingling a little bit. And then okay, what’s the counter argument to banning Tiktok? In the US? Have you even heard one?
Jeffrey Towson 06:38
Like, I’ve heard the argument for over and over and over? Have you heard of one counter argument really?
Jeffrey Towson 06:47
nother question. This is basically for all the talk an argument to pass a bill that would give Congress the ability to ban media companies. Now they will say, Oh, it’s only foreign? Well, typically what happens when a new power is introduced, it begins as a foreign thing, like surveillance in the Middle East. And then it gets expanded into the US, happens almost every time and it grows over time. It never gets smaller, almost never. And then other one would be like, what else is in this bill? That is about banning Tiktok. And we’re seeing drafts of it now. And it looks like sweeping power to regulate the internet. That’s what it looks like. We’ll see. I’m not it’s not my area. But from what I’ve seen, it’s a lot. It’s a lot more than just ticked up. So what comes to my mind because I have a suspicious mind is there’s an old George Carlin, quote, The comedian George Carlin, and his quote is, the word bipartisan usually means that some larger than normal deception is being carried out. Right, which is kind of funny. Okay, it’s bizarre, you know, is that what’s going on here? Anyways, let’s sort of start with a healthy dose of suspicion, at least for me.
Jeffrey Towson 08:01
But we’ll put that aside, and we’ll say let’s operate in good faith, and assume the arguments are upfront. And just go through the pros and cons of this. And I’m going to focus on the cons because I don’t hear anyone else doing it too much, little bit here and there. Not much.
Jeffrey Towson 08:18
If you go on Tik Tok this week, you’ll see huge amounts of videos on this subject, like protect tick tock, so they’re clearly using that to get their message out, which is totally fair.
Jeffrey Towson 08:30
Okay, so I guess point one, that was point 1.2. It’s really not worth watching the congressional hearing on tic toc with the CEO shows that you don’t do it. It’s like five and a half hours. It’s almost entirely useless. It’s largely embarrassing. Because
Jeffrey Towson 08:53
I mean, there are some good questions here and there, but the amount of political theater and stupid questions. It’s, it’s the majority, you’re gonna watch four and a half hours of that to get to the other stuff, so don’t do it. I’ll put a link in the show notes for the statement that the Tick Tock CEO showed you that he put out prior to his testimony. I’ll put the whole statement there. You can read it. It’s it’s not bad. It’s it’s, you can hear most of his main points and he stuck to them. You can read it. It’s about two pages.
Jeffrey Towson 09:28
Okay, fine. That’s primary source information, which worth scanning it quickly. I’ll put the link there.
Jeffrey Towson 09:36
And then, you know, when you look at the testimony in the reports about it, the thing that everybody said was It was surprising how about how bipartisan it was? Democrats, Republicans all basically attacking tick tock and really China.
Jeffrey Towson 09:53
It seems to be the only thing that two parties agree upon. Now the case for banning Tiktok or
Jeffrey Towson 10:00
forcing a sale to a US company or forcing something else usually falls into two categories. One, it’s the standard argument, which is like, we’ve got to protect
Jeffrey Towson 10:16
privacy and data security of Americans. That’s the main argument. I think that’s actually the weakest one.
Jeffrey Towson 10:23
Or let’s say that we are the least believable one. Because, as far as I can tell, the US government and the politicians and all of us have not cared one whit for the privacy and data security of Americans in the past 15 years, I can’t think of a single thing they’ve done. Facebook, so they’re they’re just running rampant. And we’ve never seen anything happen on a DC. So the argument that they suddenly care? Yeah, I don’t really buy it. But there are good points, good arguments, the two strongest arguments, I think, in favor of banning or forcing a sale is
Jeffrey Towson 10:59
it is not a good idea to have a Chinese owned media company, widely used in the United States by 150 million Americans on a monthly basis. That has serious questions, because, as all as argue shortly, social media has a very powerful effect on society, culture, news, politics, everything.
Jeffrey Towson 11:24
Now, I would say the same thing. If it wasn’t China, if it was Russia, if I probably say the same thing, if it was France, I don’t like the idea of foreign companies having such a pervasive role in American society. And I would say that about pretty much any country, I’d say the same thing about Facebook’s pervasive role in India.
Jeffrey Towson 11:45
You know, this is about sort of local information flows. I think that’s a solid argument, but people are calling, I call it info nationalism, other people call it tech nationalism. There’s another solid argument, which I’ve made before, which is the US is shifting its approach to China, away from hey, here’s the WTO. Here’s the trade agreements, everyone, these apply to everybody.
Jeffrey Towson 12:12
They are shifting China into a separate category, which is sort of titled A reciprocity.
Jeffrey Towson 12:19
If you raise tariffs on, I don’t know, steel 20%, we are going to immediately respond with tariffs around reciprocal actions in real time of which Donald Trump was really good at. So there’s an argument that the US and China are moving more towards a reciprocal relationship.
Jeffrey Towson 12:40
And you could argue that applies here, because the truth is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all banned in China. So if you think recipt reciprocity is the right posture, then it makes sense that okay, then Chinese companies can’t be in the US to do media. Both of those are, I think, are solid arguments. Okay.
Jeffrey Towson 12:58
Put that aside for a moment. Now, let’s talk about social media. And then I’ll circle back and sort of
Jeffrey Towson 13:04
put it together. Why is social media so important? Why is it so powerful? And why is everybody trying to get their hands on the wheel? Why does everyone want to be in control of these very powerful companies? And everybody does.
Jeffrey Towson 13:24
And the big issue is, as I said,
Jeffrey Towson 13:28
this is the biggest source of information flows, for people for society, it shapes news, if Facebook doesn’t cover something in Google doesn’t cover something, did it really happen.
Jeffrey Towson 13:43
And we can see them doing blanket bans on certain subjects, and then promoting other events. This is what happened in the news today. It shapes culture, what values are promoted? What values are not to be promoted, what behavior is acceptable, what behavior is not acceptable? And ultimately, it shapes politics. You know, the Hunter Biden laptop story was a major
Jeffrey Towson 14:09
event that was actively censored by Twitter, Facebook and everyone else. And in retrospect, it turned out to be true.
Jeffrey Towson 14:19
Okay, I mean, did that have an impact on the election? I don’t know. But you can’t argue that wasn’t like significant as an event. And most of these companies, Facebook and Twitter have since apologized, they said we were wrong to do it.
Jeffrey Towson 14:34
So yeah, it’s just important. And we’re not just talking about information flows between organizations and individuals, political parties, corporations, churches, but we’re also talking about information flows between people, sharing things with friends, sharing things with family, you know, all of that information is very important information flows in communication.
Jeffrey Towson 14:57
The consolidation of the social means
Jeffrey Towson 15:00
He accompanies into a couple of companies has created the ability to control society and politics on a level that no one has ever seen before. In my opinion,
Jeffrey Towson 15:14
Jeffrey Towson 15:16
What is really going on? How do you take apart the mechanics? Here’s how I take apart the mechanics. I think social media is basically three phenomenon we already know, combined.
Jeffrey Towson 15:29
Phenomenon one, we’ll call it the media phenomenon two, we will call a religious institution churches, synagogues, mosques, phenomenon three local government, city councils, mayor’s offices, small towns.
Jeffrey Towson 15:46
And let me sort of walk through
Jeffrey Towson 15:49
those. Okay, so let’s say media, everyone understands media. Traditionally, media was newspaper, radio, television, newspapers were historically local monopolies. One major newspaper in New York, one major newspaper in Boston, radio and television, we had national oligopolies, NBC, CBS, NBC, ABC.
Jeffrey Towson 16:12
And all of those were very powerful. And people knew this, because, you know,
Jeffrey Towson 16:18
if you owned one of these companies, you weren’t just a wealthy person, you were considered politically important. Steve Forbes, the editors of the New York Times, they weren’t just business, people who are successful, they were recognized as key pillars of society.
Jeffrey Towson 16:36
You know, and eventually, this becomes called the fourth branch of government. I mean, it was really powerful. Everyone kind of accepted that. Now there’s two characteristics. And this is how it ties to social media that I think you need to look at when you see media like that. The first is there is always an important human editorial function happening.
Jeffrey Towson 16:59
There was always an editor in chief of a newspaper. That’s the person who decided what story mattered what story didn’t what was on the front page, what was on the back page, what was above the fold, one was not, they decided what was accurate and reportable and what was not. So what they were really doing was content curation, and content censorship. And we have always accepted that because you can’t publish everything.
Jeffrey Towson 17:27
So you had the human editorial function, and we call the the anchor person or the news producer at TV, and we call that the editor in chief at newspapers fine.
Jeffrey Towson 17:35
These organizations, media organizations always also had a sort of shifting degree of independence from political power,
Jeffrey Towson 17:46
political power governments, parties, security state, they have obviously always wanted to influence and or control media organizations, it’s in their best interest. And in some cases, let’s say the UAE. Well, the government owns the main newspaper, The National outright.
Jeffrey Towson 18:04
Okay. In other situations, like the BBC, in the UK, it is technically owned by the government, but it operates to a large, mostly independent from the government. Okay, so that’s a bit different. And then in situations in the US, like, let’s say, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, okay, those are private companies. But all of them, to a large degree, represent certain political parties. So they are kind of political. So it’s kind of the spectrum of dependence versus independence versus coordination from political power.
Jeffrey Towson 18:43
And it’s kind of always a bit of a shifting relationship, and you have to keep an eye on it. And politicians, government agencies, parties always want to, you know, they want to influence coverage, if not directly control. And they do that by having friendly relationships, having correspondents dinners, giving people jobs as soon as they leave the White House. Oh, the White House press secretary now works at MSNBC, giving selective leaks. Oh, you were CIA person. Now you’re a contributor to Fox News, right? And we could say there’s the same sort of shifting relationship between media and corporate power.
Jeffrey Towson 19:19
You turn on anything on cable news, you’re probably going to see a little thing at that thing. This segment sponsored by Pfizer, sponsored by Pfizer, okay. Same thing.
Jeffrey Towson 19:29
Alright, so keep that in mind. We’ll move in the next one. If you look at religious institutions, could doesn’t have to be, let’s say cultural and or religious churches, synagogues, mosques.
Jeffrey Towson 19:42
Similarly influential, but overwhelmingly local, not national, not monopolies. Lots and lots of local institutions. Lots and lots of churches, lots and lots of mosques. Okay, but they’re also sort of playing an important role in information flow.
Jeffrey Towson 20:00
but they’re not doing content curation like media, they’re really promoting and discouraging values and behavior.
Jeffrey Towson 20:10
Values that, let’s say the Christians might promote, I grew up in a church, you know, charity, give charity of family,
Jeffrey Towson 20:20
things like that. And then the other behaviors and values, they would criticize, don’t cheat, don’t steal. And they, it can be major 10 commandments sort of stuff. Or it can be like, Look, you don’t you don’t wear shorts to church.
Jeffrey Towson 20:33
That would be a judgment. I remember, like walking in church one day, and I was, I said to someone, I was, oh, you know, gee, you know, oh, geez, I can’t believe this. And the pastor was behind me. And he said, you know, oh, G stands for Oh, Jesus, you really shouldn’t say that. So their role in sort of promoting correcting behavior and really values
Jeffrey Towson 20:56
is it’s important. And you could argue the same thing happens in some local schools and other locations. But I’ll point to the church and sort of religious institutions as outside outsized figures,
Jeffrey Towson 21:09
in values, and this is why you’ll see prominent religious figures, there’ll be on the news talking about political events, like media heads, they are outsize figures in society.
Jeffrey Towson 21:20
And here’s the same point, we see that same two factors playing out that we did for media, there was always a human editorial function. And there is always a shifting degree of independence from political power for these institutions as well.
Jeffrey Towson 21:39
Okay, who does the let’s call it editorial function? Well, it’s the priest, the rabbi, the Imam, they would decide what behaviors should be promoted and acceptable, and which should be called out as unacceptable and discouraged. Okay, so it’s not content creation or censorship, like new, but they did play a similar role with regards to values. And, okay, what’s the relationship to political power when you go somewhere like Saudi Arabia, the Imams are mostly appointed by the government, they’re licensed, I believe, I don’t really, totally know how that works. I was, you know, most little towns blocks have a mosque and an imam. And I was, I was overseeing a hospital there for a while. And we had a mosque on site. And I was terminating people left and right, because it was sort of restructuring. And I accidentally put on the termination list the mom for the mosque, and I didn’t know what any mom was by 10. And I sort of submitted it to the boss. And he’s like, Yeah, you can’t fire the email. I was like, Oh, I had to look at what did he mom was.
Jeffrey Towson 22:41
But this relationship with government matters.
Jeffrey Towson 22:45
In institutions like the UK, okay, the church is mostly private, but part of the church is still technically part of the government.
Jeffrey Towson 22:53
In the US religions, institutions tend to be independent. But we do see some of them aligning with political parties, and political movements more. So we see the same spectrum, it’s a little harder to get control of these because they’re scattered in local, as opposed to consolidated in New York, like media.
Jeffrey Towson 23:14
Okay, and then the last one, local governments. So think small town, where there’s a mayor, and there’s a town council.
Jeffrey Towson 23:25
Okay, they are also playing a role in
Jeffrey Towson 23:30
controlling behavior, not values as much as a church. But in the they don’t curate information, but they do set rules for behavior, we are not going to obviously, you can’t steal cars, okay? Strict rules, laws fine. But others are much more matter of judgment. We are not going to sell alcohol in our town after 10pm. No strip clubs around in town, if you’re going to have a rally, you gotta get a permit.
Jeffrey Towson 23:56
Right. So there’s playing a similar role. And again, we see the same human editorial function, and we see with the same shifting relationship with political power. The mayor and usually the City Council are who determines what behaviors are acceptable, what should be regulated, you need to permit for that, which are illegal, you can’t park on the street overnight.
Jeffrey Towson 24:18
And then they have sort of the you know, that’s the mayor in the city council, and then they have a shifting degree of independence in the US. Local cities tend to be fairly independent of national government. But if you go places like Brazil, you have a huge degree of centralization in Brasilia, and, you know, it’s very hard to do things at the local level, because the rules are all set in one place. So same question. Okay.
Jeffrey Towson 24:44
So here’s my point.
Jeffrey Towson 24:47
Social media, to me looks like all three of those functions combined. Facebook is absolutely a massive media company with 3 billion users and
Jeffrey Towson 25:00
They decide what is promoted and what is censored. They do content creation, I’m sorry, curation, they do content censorship. Just like the editor in chief of a newspaper, Mark Zuckerberg is editor in chief of a 3 billion person media company, just like New York Times, Boston, globe, whatever.
Jeffrey Towson 25:21
Facebook is also effectively, I won’t call it a church, it’s not quite the right word. But they are passing judgment on what values are promoted and what values are discouraged. Just like we saw religious institutions,
Jeffrey Towson 25:39
we don’t accept those words. Those words are offensive, we tolerate. We don’t tolerate this sort of commentary about people. We do promote this, we think this is they’re making those value judgments.
Jeffrey Towson 25:54
Just like, you know, a rabbi or whatever. And again, guess what, that’s Mark Zuckerberg. It’s also a local government. They determine what behavior is acceptable on the platform, you can’t use bots, you got to use your real name, you can’t put pornography. That’s a lot like a local government. So Mark Zuckerberg, in my opinion.
Jeffrey Towson 26:14
He’s Editor in Chief. He’s local priest. And he’s town mayor of a 3 billion person,
Jeffrey Towson 26:24
community. He’s playing all three roles. Now. It’s not him specifically. But ultimately, he’s the one at the top.
Jeffrey Towson 26:31
And all of that’s necessary.
Jeffrey Towson 26:34
If you remove that human editorial control,
Jeffrey Towson 26:39
that editorial function, these things degenerate into cesspools in a matter of hours, you know, they become awful. So this idea that we’re going to have decentralized social media without a human function, no, you’re never going to have a newspaper or media company without an editor, you can never have a church without a priest. And you can never have a local town without a mayor. You got to have all three. The difference is the social media companies are all three functions, and they have tremendous reach.
Jeffrey Towson 27:09
So I kind of said this about Elon Musk. He’s basically people said, Oh, he’s gonna be the Free Speech guy. No, his values are free speech. But he is in the chair. He’s the editor in chief. He’s the values guy, let’s call it the priest, and He’s the mayor of Twitter. Now, his values, he clearly believes in free speech, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to let this be a free speech platform. But that’s where his values are.
Jeffrey Towson 27:35
You removed those functions, and the whole thing goes to hell, like, almost immediately, it becomes horrific, and everybody leaves the same way. If they got rid of the mayor of a town, the town would go crazy, right? Okay.
Jeffrey Towson 27:48
So two questions become important.
Jeffrey Towson 27:52
The first is, who is in charge? And what are their values? The human editorial function? Who do I trust that person? Do I trust Mark Zuckerberg? Do I trust Elon Musk? Do I trust jazz? Jack, Dorsey?
Jeffrey Towson 28:07
Those are that’s a very important question. And it’s always going to come down to the person because it has to be a person just like, if you have a church, there has to be a priest.
Jeffrey Towson 28:16
The second question, which I’ll get onto now is, what is the relationship of that social media company to the government and other sources of external power that very much want to influence and control them?
Jeffrey Towson 28:30
And that will move me on to green Glenn Greenwald.
Jeffrey Towson 28:35
Now, for those of you who listen to Glenn Greenwald, you’ll probably recognize a lot of this I’m kind of a decent fan. And, you know, independent journalists became very well known because of basically breaking the Edward Snowden story and being sort of the conduit for that information. Well, and now he has a show on rumble and a podcast under the title of system update, which I mean, I spend a lot of time in Brazil he lives in Rio I’m I’m kind of in the same neighborhood. I’m actually met him but kind of crossed paths a lot, I suppose.
Jeffrey Towson 29:10
Now he he’s been digging into a subject and I think this is his main subject. And I think this is why he has somewhat risen to prominence is him and other we’ll call it independent journalist Matt Taibbi people like this have been focusing on the relationship between individuals and centralized systems of power. And that relationship is, you know, that can get you into a lot of trouble as a journalist that’s, you know, how you get arrested when you start writing about the, you know, security state or the NSA or Edward Snowden all this up. And his his focus for a long time in my opinion has been on the security state of the US, so let’s call it and I think he also does Brazil and other things, but let’s say you know, CIA, FBI, all of that
Jeffrey Towson 29:58
and their interest
Jeffrey Towson 30:00
As in monitoring if not controlling information, which is not an illegitimate interest. I mean, there’s there’s very good reasons for that.
Jeffrey Towson 30:12
And then he has written a lot, if you want to go on system update, I encourage you to listen, he talks a lot about the relationship between, let’s say, the security state and corporate media,
Jeffrey Towson 30:22
which has become much more cozy in the last five years than we’ve ever seen before where you know, the leaks going from security, they get published in this newspaper, then it becomes news. And you start to create narratives and things like that. And, you know, for those of you who like Noam Chomsky, you know, this is all about Manufacturing Consent, which is a pretty interesting book. Okay, so the argument, and I’m paraphrasing is, since around 2015, we have effectively seen a partnership between the government which can be politicians, White House Administration, Congress, and security state, all those entities, a partnership between them corporate media, and big tech, Facebook, Twitter, Google. And,
Jeffrey Towson 31:14
you know, people had suspected this, that there was something going on. And the sort of release of the Twitter files pretty much showed it. I mean, it was just email after email every single day coming from the White House coming from Department of Homeland Security, FBI, flagging posts, flagging individuals, and then they immediately get, in best case scenario, Shadow banned, or just outright banned.
Jeffrey Towson 31:43
And that’s what
Jeffrey Towson 31:46
Glenn calls the censorship regime. It’s this quasi partnership between government, corporate media and big tech. And
Jeffrey Towson 31:57
it’s hard not to become a believer, and you could call that as a conspiracy theory. It’s, it’s hard not to believe it’s real. Now. It’s really
Jeffrey Towson 32:06
when you start looking at what happened during COVID. And anything that contradicted whatever the narrative happened to be that month, got you banned. And prominent doctors, some of the best virologist in the world, suddenly they all get banned for saying something in April of 2001 that contradicted the narrative. And then six months later, it turns out, it was totally true. And it happened over and over and over and over. And the joke becomes, what’s the difference between this conspiracy theory and the truth? About six months?
Jeffrey Towson 32:40
So that was kind of what happened. And then obviously, Ilan, bought Twitter and released all this, and it’s, yeah, okay. So if you believe that,
Jeffrey Towson 32:51
and I’m about 80%, on board with that at this point, I wasn’t before, if you believe that, that there is a censorship regime operating, that has sort of had light cast on it in the last six months? Well, there’s only really three companies that are outside of that. Major ones, they’re smaller ones, there’s a rumble, which, which literally calls itself the Free Speech alternative to YouTube. That’s their tagline.
There is arguably Twitter under Elon Musk. And there’s TikTok, which, by virtue of being Chinese,
Jeffrey Towson 33:31
ironically, is somewhat independent of this system. Now, maybe it’s subject to other systems, but it’s not this one. And I think it’s really instructive to look, or remember what happened to Elon Musk immediately after he bought Twitter, because there was a series of actions there. That if you believe this sort of idea, the actions all look to me like the censorship regime, trying to force him to bend the knee. And what happened immediately after he bought Twitter what happened? Corporate media for the most part, attacked him.
Jeffrey Towson 34:11
And the story like literally the day after he took over was there’s a surge in hate speech on Twitter, hate speech goes up. 500% blah, blah. Turned out it was all bots and fake that went immediately.
Jeffrey Towson 34:24
Most of the left to center politicians came out and made the same threat that had been making to Mark Zuckerberg which is
Jeffrey Towson 34:34
you need to do more content moderation, which I think is code for you need to do content moderation for us.
Jeffrey Towson 34:41
Or we will regulate you. That’s the threat. Right? So corporate media attacked, politicians attacked.
Jeffrey Towson 34:53
There was then pressure put on advertisers, large corporations that they should stop advertising on Facebook on Twitter.
Jeffrey Towson 35:00
Which happened, a good portion of them walked away.
Jeffrey Towson 35:04
So that’s at least three different threats, right. And then when that didn’t seem to work, because he’s kind of immune to everything.
Jeffrey Towson 35:14
The next move was let’s get it D platformed. From Google and Apple, let’s take it out of the App Store. And that was pushed. And then Ilan met with Tim Cook and basically said, it’s fine. And it’s really hard to D platform, a dude who has his own satellite network and can build his own smartphone in about three months. So but we saw the playbook and it was the same playbook that was used against Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg.
Jeffrey Towson 35:44
And it was he beat them all back. And then he went further, where he dumped all the past communication at Twitter staff between DHS politics, he just dumped it all to journalists.
Jeffrey Towson 35:57
So that same approach, probably wouldn’t work on Tik Tok either, to some degree it might.
Jeffrey Towson 36:06
But you can kind of see a bit of a playbook. Okay, so let me get to the sowhat. And I’ll finish up here. Oh, by the way,
Jeffrey Towson 36:15
if you the CEO of tick tock, show that you it’s funny, whenever they say his name, they always leave out this as it shows the two bytes. They take out that sometimes. So now it’s like show two. I think that’s because they don’t know how to pronounce it. Anyways, he’s been doing these tick tock videos, making his case. And also, I screenshot one of them, and I’ll put it in the show notes. But his number three reason. And this is a quote from them, quote, We will ensure that tick tock remains in a platform for free expression, and that it cannot be manipulated by any government, and any is full caps. I think that is directly pointing to the US government. I think that’s what I think they’re saying the same thing. But that’s a guess. Okay. That said, I’ll get to the sowhat. Here’s my case, why it should not be banned. And in fact, it must be protected. Three points.
Jeffrey Towson 37:17
The risk of data security, surveillance, data privacy that is cited is largely phony.
Jeffrey Towson 37:25
At best, it’s a theoretical risk. That may happen in the future.
Jeffrey Towson 37:33
But I don’t see them ever talking about this for anything, Silicon Valley companies do this every so I don’t buy it. That’s point number one. Point number two,
Jeffrey Towson 37:43
the risk of let’s call it the Chinese government, the CCP, whatever, using this platform in some sort of media information flow, curation, influence, whatever you want to call it, that risk
Jeffrey Towson 37:59
Jeffrey Towson 38:01
basically theoretical, at this point. I think it’s theoretical. It could happen. We have no evidence it has ever happened. If it were to happen, it’s fairly small, and it’s easy to manage. You can track that stuff, you can see it. So that’s a
Jeffrey Towson 38:20
boogeyman argument. And if it’s a real, it’s a theoretical risk, it’s small, it’s easy to manage if it happens, the real risk, which is big, and it’s absolutely proven, is the US state and the censorship regime.
Jeffrey Towson 38:38
That’s the real riskier, but it has one, at least one major weakness for that sort of thing to work. It has to be a monopoly, it has to be everybody. If there are cracks in the system, the information gets through and everyone else looks ridiculous. And right now, there’s at least three cracks in the wall. there’s Twitter, there’s Tic Toc, there’s rumble.
Jeffrey Towson 39:01
So for now, the smart move is to protect those. And then in the future, you can change it. Fine. And that’s kind of where I fall on all of this.
Jeffrey Towson 39:13
Which was harder. No, that’s a little bit of me being political, I suppose. But I think even if you disagree with everything I just said sort of the politics of censorship or GMO, okay, put that all aside in your brain. Maybe that’s just me being me.
Jeffrey Towson 39:28
I think the framework for thinking about social media is the role of human editorial functions. I think that’s all real business model structure that we see. And I think that there’s I think there’s actually some good digital strategy lessons in that. It’s why I don’t think web three decentralized social media is ever going to work. It’s why I don’t think YouTube and Tiktok things can work without an editorial function.
Jeffrey Towson 39:55
We always need at a minimum we always need an editor in chief and a mayor
Jeffrey Towson 40:00
For any of these platforms for their to function, so it really comes down to who do you trust.
Jeffrey Towson 40:07
And maybe certain people trust one person and certain people dress in a certain people trust Elon Musk to do those two roles.
Jeffrey Towson 40:15
Certain people probably trust Mark Zuckerberg to do that role in, okay. And maybe that’s a little bit like with newspapers, this is my newspaper, this is your newspaper, fine. But I think that’s probably how social media is going to play out. And when I think about these things, I think about, okay,
Jeffrey Towson 40:34
what do I want in a social media business, I want someone in charge, and it has to be a person, it can’t be a team, it’s got to be a person who’s trusted and credible. That’s point one, they have to have values that I mostly agree with. And I more or less agree with what rumble and Elon more free speech oriented. And third, it probably has to be able to stand up to outside attempts at control. So it’s got to be someone with some gravitas with a backbone. It helps if they’re super rich, because these positions are so powerful that lots of external parties, government, corporations, whatever, are going to try to influence and control them. So you need someone to stand up. That’s kind of what I look forward to the three things. Okay, and you can judge whether Elon Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg shochu whether whether you think they fit that role. Tim Cook people, people I think generally trust Tim Cook
Jeffrey Towson 41:32
Satya Nadella, I don’t know. So anyways, that’s how I do it. Okay, that is enough for today. And we’re gonna do Ali Baba next week. So we’ll get back into sort of standard digital strategy. And that is the content for this week.
Jeffrey Towson 41:47
As for me, it’s been a pretty good week. I’m packing up right now to fly to Shenzhen. I’ll be there for a couple of days, which is always fun. Such a fun, it’s such a good city. I really liked that part of China. I almost never go to Hong Kong. I’m always sort of I base myself in Shenzhen. And if I have to go to Hong Kong, I crossed the border and then come back, but I’m much happier staying there than going the other way. And that whole Greater Bay is really fun. So it’ll be Shen Jen at the Huawei headquarters. There’ll be the press event this Friday, which will be
Jeffrey Towson 42:22
obviously Sabrina among you know, the CFO. She’s technically technically right now she is CFO and not rotating chairperson they usually have four rotating chair people. I think she does not officially take that role until next week, but so she’s CFO. So she’ll be presenting the CFO information. And probably Eric Xu will be presenting the main information and then I think she she becomes chairperson next week or something like that. So that’ll be that shinjin Dongguan. First on my itinerary is to get hotpot which is always what I do whenever I get back to China. It’s really, it’s really awesome. For those of you who have never sort of hung out there for a long time. Like, you sort of get the hot pot, you make it yourself, you boil this stuff. It’s great. And then you get like a cold beer. It’s really it’s a great way to have sort of dinner. So I’m doing that as soon as I get back, but that’s my plan. And then I’ll, I’ll be out of there in a couple of days. Okay, that is it for me. I hope everyone is doing well and I’ll talk to you next week. Bye bye.
I write, speak and consult about how to win (and not lose) in digital strategy and transformation.
I am the founder of TechMoat Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that helps retailers, brands, and technology companies exploit digital change to grow faster, innovate better and build digital moats. Get in touch here.
My book series Moats and Marathons is one-of-a-kind framework for building and measuring competitive advantages in digital businesses.
This content (articles, podcasts, website info) is not investment, legal or tax advice. The information and opinions from me and any guests may be incorrect. The numbers and information may be wrong. The views expressed may no longer be relevant or accurate. This is not investment advice. Investing is risky. Do your own research.