Why hasn’t TikTok been banned by the United States? Wall Street Journal  

This billionaire deserves a lot of credit

Is tiktok getting banned in the us ?

Earlier this year, the Biden administration, the U.S. Congress, and state legislatures threatened to ban TikTok, which the Chinese-owned short video giant had virtually no friends in the U.S. government at the time.

And now TikTok has more friends who all have one thing in common: the support of billionaire financier Jeff Yass. They helped block an attempt to ban this most downloaded app in the United States.

Yas’s investment firm, Susquehanna International Group, placed a stake in TikTok in 2012, taking a stake in the platform’s parent company ByteDance, which currently accounts for about 15%. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT YASS PERSONALLY HOLDS ABOUT 7% OF BYTE JUMP SHARES. Based on recent valuations of Byte Bounce, these holdings are valued at about $210 billion, accounting for most of AS’ net asset value of $280 billion, according to Bloomberg statistics.

Jeff Yass is also one of the major donors to Club For Growth, an influential conservative group that has called on Republicans to oppose the TikTok ban. According to federal records, Yass has donated $6 million to Club For Growth’s political spending department since 2010, about 24% of the department’s total donations.

In March of this year, at a time when bipartisan sentiment against TikTok was running high in the US Congress, Club For Growth publicly opposed the banning of TikTok in a comment article by its president. Days later, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul stood out in the Senate and blocked an attempt by Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley who wanted to quickly pass a bill to ban the download of the TikTok app.
If we banned TikTok in the United States, it would be nothing like the Chinese government’s,” Paul said at the time.

In June of this year, Yass donated $300 million to a political committee supporting Paul. Federal records show that counting this donation, Yass and his wife, Janine Yass, have donated more than $2,400 million to Paul or committees supporting Paul since 2015. Since 2020, Club for Growth has donated $180 million to a political committee that supports Paul.

Another Republican who supports Club for Growth who publicly opposes the TikTok ban is Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie, who is a key ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. According to insiders, Massington is urging House Republican leadership to oppose another effort in the Senate, a bipartisan bill against TikTok backed by the Biden administration.
Since 2020, the Asus couple has donated $3.22 million to Massey or a political action committee that supports Massey.

Club for Growth has been Massey’s largest political donor since 2011, according to data from OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political donations, with supporters donating $19.2 million to Massey.

Massey doesn’t like TikTok, but banning the app is wrong because “this treatment is worse than the disease itself,” said a spokesperson for Massey. A Paul spokesman said Paul was “opposed to the censorship system and steadfastly supports the First Amendment to the Constitution, a deeply rooted libertarian belief he holds.” Both libertarian-minded Republicans have broken party lines in the past and taken a hard line on protecting freedom of speech.

Several other Republicans in the U.S. Congress also oppose legislation targeting TikTok, with at least five of these Republicans receiving Club for Growth’s funding support in addition to Paul and Massey. Many Democrats have been skeptical of the TikTok ban, and Republican support has also been waning, which has stifled momentum for several bills, including the Biden administration-backed Restrict Acts.

Yas’s gambling activities are striking, partly because of the impressive size of his political spending. According to data from OpenSecrets, in the 2022 election cycle, he and his wife were the third largest conservative donors in the United States, donating about $4.9 million to support conservative candidates and causes.

This investment, which Yass has been seeking protection in Washington, is extremely valuable and also very fragile. While many aspects of potential legislation could affect many companies, many companies, including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, 9988.HK, BABA and Australian financial services firm Macquarie Group, MQG.AU, have been lobbying the U.S. Congress to protect these interests. But the relevant law will have a particularly huge impact on TikTok.

“I have always supported liberalism and free market principles since I grew up,” Yass said. “TikTok is about freedom of speech and innovation, and it is the epitome of liberalism and free market ideals. The idea of disabling TikTok seriously violates all my beliefs.”

TikTok parent company Bypass is often referred to as the most valuable startup in the world. Last year, the company reached a valuation of $3,000 billion on its own when it repurchased shares from existing investors. The company’s ultimate goal is to go public, most likely in Asia, where if TikTok is banned in the United States, the byte-hopping IPO valuation would be severely damaged.

Some key officials and congressmen in the Biden administration say the Chinese government may order byte-hopping to monitor TikTok users in the United States, or influence what videos people watch. A TikTok spokesperson said the company would not heed such a request and has presented the Biden administration with a $15 billion plan to isolate its U.S. business from China.

TikTok’s gaming activities in Washington include hundreds of meetings and other contacts, according to an insider. One of TikTok’s main arguments to Republicans is that most of Byte Jump’s shareholders are Americans, some of whom are also conservatives with a wide range of backgrounds, insiders say.

Impact Action

These playthings seem to have helped push House Republicans to abandon the idea of banning TikTok and turn to focus on legislation that provides new legal protections for users’ personal data.

House Speaker McCarthy said in an interview that one idea is to ban the app and another is to protect the data. He said that prohibition seemed to be the most powerful at one time, but now it seems that perhaps protecting data is the real solution, which is in fact a given.

Senator Holly blamed the change on TikTok’s influencer actions. When asked about the role played by Yass and Club for Growth in the debate over TikTok, Holly said, “TikTok and its dark money insiders are spending a lot of money to stifle these bills.”

In addition to empowering Republican candidates who support its views, Club for Growth often points its spear at Republican incumbents who disagree with its priorities by supporting rivals in primaries.

Some conservative and libertarian congressmen have historically refused to accept what they consider to be government interference with freedom of speech and the way businesses operate, and that’s exactly what some of them raised in the TikTok bill.

Others also opposed the legislation, including media figures such as Tucker Carlson.

Club for Growth president David McIntosh said the organization began prioritizing TikTok around the end of 2022; at that time, the U.S. government banned federal employees from using TikTok on their office devices.

McIntosh says the organization is starting to pose a new question to political candidates seeking Club for Growth funding: What do you think of the TikTok ban?

As a former Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives, McIntosh said that as the political risks facing TikTok grow, Yass regularly consults with the Club for Growth to ask which congressmen would be willing to take a stand on the issue.

McIntosh said he didn’t negotiate with Yass before writing his opinion column, but he did give it to Yass after posting the column on Fox New.

James loved this post, says McIntosh.

Both Yass and Club for Growth oppose banning TikTok because they believe it should be up to Americans individuals, not the government, to decide what content people can browse, McIntosh said.

“It dovetails naturally with his libertarian ideas, which he uses to guide his political donations,” McIntosh told Yass. “In this regard, it is also in his economic interests.”

Sam Chen, a Pennsylvania Republican political consultant who has worked for some of the candidates supported by Yass, said that Yass’ economic interests align with his limited government philosophy.

Yass is a libertarian,” Chen said. “He is the one who supports voting in this direction. That’s what politics is like.”

Technology Startups

Yass, 65, grew up in Queens, New York, where he and fellow boarders at the State University of New York at Binghamton found a way to turn the odds in their favor, earning his first barrel of gold.

These students later founded the Haina International Group. In the 1980s, this Philadelphia-based company helped pioneer the pioneer of rapid trading of stock options and other securities using quantitative models and computers.

Poker is at the heart of Haina International Group’s methodology. New employees are trained by playing Texas Hold’em, where they learn how to analyze probabilities and estimate opponents, Yas said in a podcast in 2020. “Poker players and traders are very similar—they use the same decision theory,” says Yas. He won 12th place in the 2013 World Poker Tournament.

Recently, Haina International Group has been involved in venture and private equity investments, including investments in Chinese technology startups.

According to a lawsuit filed by a China-based contractor against Haina International Group, Haina International Group invested $208 million in the company in the year of Byte Jump’s foundation in 2012, and since then, Haina International Group’s fund has invested billions of dollars in byte-hopping.

In addition to Byte Jumping, Haina International Group’s China branch also lists nearly 400 other companies it invests in on its website, including China’s large budget hotel chains Home Inn and various tech companies.

McIntosh said that at Club for Growth, asking candidates questions about TikTok bans in order to understand their views on some issues, Yass has never insisted that Club for Growth show a stand on TikTok issues. “Yas will never instruct Club for Growth to take a certain action or stance on certain things,” McIntosh said. “But when it comes to choosing the candidates to support, we naturally stay consistent.”

Some politicians supported by Club for Growth strongly support the banning of TikTok, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Club for Growth also supports free trade, school choice, and spending cuts.

This spring, some Republican staffers in the U.S. Congress took notice of Yas’ relationship with TikTok. “Club for Growth is an agent for TikTok, and it happens to be that Yas benefits the platform,” one employee wrote in a text message sent to others. The Wall Street Journal has seen this message.

Florida Republican Assemblywoman Anna Paulina Luna says she hasn’t discussed TikTok banning issues with either Yas or McIntosh. According to OpenSecrets, Luna received $6.1 million in funding from Club for Growth supporters in the 2022 campaign. She says she supports banning TikTok, but thinks the Biden-backed Restriction Bill is an exercise in the administration’s prerogative. Luna said she hoped for legislation that would both ban TikTok and not give officials more power.

Luna said there were two reasons for the TikTok-related legislative stalemate: one that lawmakers underestimated the national security risks posed by the app owned by a Chinese company, and second, because TikTok and its allies were playing tricks.

As the clamor for a ban on the social media app grew louder earlier this year, TikTok hired top-notch political strategists and summoned some redditors on the platform to show lawmakers how popular the app is.

U.S. companies that do business in China also oppose the ban, as these companies could face retaliation from the Chinese government if the United States takes action against TikTok. Whether TikTok can continue to operate in the United States is also a matter for the interests of many other U.S. companies, including Oracle, ORCL, whose data is hosted on Oracle’s cloud servers.

Luna said that in order for TikTok to continue to stay on the phones of US users, someone is investing heavily.

Since former U.S. President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok in 2020, TikTok has refuted claims that its user data might be handed over to the Chinese government. At the time, two federal judges called for a halt to Trump’s ban, calling it a violation of his practice.

Political campaign

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which is led by the Treasury Department, led by the Treasury Department, ordered the sale of TikTok to bypass the sale of TikTok earlier this year or face a ban. Byte Jumper met with the committee’s officials again in recent weeks to discuss its data protection recommendations, according to two insiders.

The Biden administration has not indicated any change in its stance on banning TikTok or forcing its sale. The Biden administration may still try to use administrative power to ban the app, or force its sale to remove Chinese control. However, analysts say, if not enacted, the orders could be overturned by the courts, much like the court rulings of the Trump era.

Such concerns have given rise to a number of legislative proposals, such as the Restraint Bill by Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner and South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune. The bill would authorize the Commerce Secretary to ban information platforms owned by companies in hostile countries such as China.

TikTok and its allies believe the Restriction Bill would give too much power to the government, a view that goes against the libertarian spirit of Yas and Club for Growth.

According to OpenSecrets, Georgia Republican Congressman Rick McCormick received $11.5 million from his supporters in the Club for Growth in the 2022 campaign. McCormick said he didn’t know at the time that the organization opposed the banning of TikTok. But he said the organization’s stance “fits very well with my worldview.”

It’s a dangerous precedent to start telling society what’s accessible, what can’t be accessed, and whether anything that’s accessible is harmful,” he said. “That’s what communist countries do.”

Other Republican members of the House of Representatives who opposed the Restraint Bill supported by Club for Growth include Harriet Hageman, Republican of Wyoming, and Barry Moore, Republican of Alabama.

Hagman said she was concerned about TikTok, but she opposed the Restriction Bill because it had “overriding and unconstitutional issues” that would make more free speech censorship possible. Moore said the bill “poses a threat to the First Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

A draft plan from the Senate Commerce Committee found that the latest bill being drafted by Congress cuts the power the government can exercise over platforms like TikTok, compared to the Restrictions Bill, but could still allow for forced asset stripping of companies that pose improper national security risks.

The debate about banning TikTok also came up during the Republican presidential primaries. The candidates who supported Yass — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott — are as supportive of school choice and other issues as he does. Compared to Trump, they also took a cautious approach on TikTok issues. Trump’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

Yass donated $10 million to a committee supporting Desantis in February 2022, and another $250 million a year later.

DeSantis signed a bill in May this year to ban the use of TikTok on devices distributed by the Florida government. A few months ago, 21 other Republican governors approved similar bans in the six weeks from November last year to January of this year.

DeSantis said in July this year that if he were elected president, he would consider banning TikTok across the United States.

Prior to Desantis’s speech, Yass donated a total of $60,000 to a political committee supporting Scott between March and June of this year.

Scott is the only one of the Republican presidential primary candidates who has not advocated banning TikTok, though he has said he thinks it’s best to separate the data of U.S. users from China.

Desantis’s campaign team did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Scott’s campaign team said the candidate has been active in pushing for tougher action on China.

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