The video app has been a runaway success around the world. But U.S. lawmakers have recently taken a strong disliking to it. Do you like TikTok? A lot of people do.
The breezy music app has been downloaded nearly 1.5 billion times globally and 122 million times in the United States, according to the data firm Sensor Tower. It’s one of the fastest-growing cultural phenomena in years, and is more popular than Facebook among 13- to 16-year-olds in the United States, Axios reports.
That’s also why some people hate it.
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Officials in the United States also worry about the Chinese ownership of an influential app. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reportedly opened a national security review of the Chinese company ByteDance’s acquisition of Muscial.ly, the American app that later became TikTok.
Former U.S. employees said moderators based in Beijing had the final call on whether flagged videos were approved. The former employees said their attempts to persuade Chinese teams not to block or penalize certain videos were routinely ignored, out of caution about the Chinese government’s restrictions and previous penalties on other ByteDance apps.
And during a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, stoked fears about how TikTok may be forced to send data to the Chinese government because of laws there that require companies to comply with intelligence operations:
“A company compromised by the Chinese Communist Party knows where your children are, knows what they look like, what their voices sound like, what they’re watching and what they share with each other.”
TikTok has denied these allegations. It says that it doesn’t send data to China, and that its California moderation team reviews content for adherence to United States policies.
That might not matter. The speed with which government officials are coming down on TikTok has made it look like Mark Zuckerberg had all the time in the world to prepare a defense for Facebook. And TikTok is being exposed to two vectors of attack — about social media censorship and the sharing of Americans’ data with China — that are both hot-button issues for lawmakers.
Mr. Hawley already raised the possibility of a subpoena that would force TikTok to testify before Congress. I would be amazed if that didn’t happen. And I would be fairly surprised if we don’t see some kind of punitive measures leveled at TikTok, and soon.
Fixing California’s housing crisis?
Money can’t solve every problem.
For buying scarce stuff, money is kind of useful. We’ve seen that in action with housing in California: As big companies have lured hundreds of thousands of employees to the state with high pay, the supply of housing hasn’t kept up. Demand has driven the median home value in San Jose, Calif., to nearly $1 million, roughly double the price from 2012.
Big Tech accounts for much of the influx and has drawn most of the ire. So in June, Google pledged $1 billion in grants and loans in California to help ease the problem. Last month, Facebook offered $1 billion to the same end. And this past week, Apple announced that it would spend $2.5 billion on mortgages and affordable housing to help, too.
First, it costs about $450,000 to build a single unit of subsidized affordable housing in California. So the $4.5 billion that Google, Apple and Facebook have earmarked would, in simple terms, create about 10,000 homes. The money could stretch further. But McKinsey believes California needs 3.5 million extra homes by 2025 — the orders-of-magnitude difference is stark.
The bigger problem is that local government zoning rules have largely prohibited high-density housing in the sate. As Rolling Stone has pointed out, 94 percent of San Jose is zoned for single-family homes; 30 minutes away in Atherton, zoning allows only single-unit buildings with a footprint that doesn’t exceed 18 percent of their plot.
Money alone can’t change this. Until zoning rules soften, the law of supply and demand will mean that prices will stay high.