Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chinese social media is largely impenetrable for most in the West — just check out their memes — but Sino tech giants have their eye on owning the U.S. market, evidenced by the rise of TikTok.

Why it matters: While the video-based app simply seems like a benign platform for Gen Zers to make and share funny memes, it could become a Chinese vacuum for coveted American data.

Between the lines: TikTok's "parent company, ByteDance, recently valued at more than $75 billion, bills itself first as an artificial intelligence company, not a creator of mission-driven social platforms," per the New York Times. Its secret sauce: "Apparently you just … show [users] things, and let a powerful artificial intelligence take notes."

  • Ceding that control to TikTok should be worrying, according to a Times op-ed: "Those who complain that American firms like Facebook are invasive and unaccountable are unlikely to prefer China’s tech giants, which are often cowed by, and collaborating with, the Party-State’s opaque and irascible censorship and surveillance apparatus."
  • And you can't escape Chinese social media giants on American platforms. As Axios' Sara Fischer reported, ByteDance spent $1 billion advertising TikTok in the U.S. in 2018, growing its audience by buying ads on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
  • A similar privacy controversy played out this week with FaceApp, which is owned by a Russian startup, over its use of photos and possible access to users' photo libraries.

The state of play: There are even possible national security concerns, as New America's Graham Webster told Axios' Erica Pandey, "Say there’s a sensitive U.S. military officer with a kid who's making memes on TikTok. Is it possible that there’s data being collected through that usage that could be useful to a Chinese intelligence service? Yeah, that’s possible. But we haven’t seen evidence of that yet."

  • Earlier this year, the Chinese company that purchased the gay dating app Grindr was forced to agree to sell the company by 2020 and had restrictions placed on its access and use of data by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) due to national security concerns, per Bloomberg.
  • CFIUS doesn't have to publicly announce its work and can review companies and deals without being asked — meaning it could already have its all-powerful regulatory eye on ByteDance and TikTok.

The other side: TikTok says that its "user data is stored and processed in the U.S. and other markets where TikTok operates at industry-leading third-party data centers. It’s important to clarify that TikTok does not operate in China and that the government of the People's Republic of China has no access to TikTok users' data."

  • Yes, but: Quartz's David Carroll discovered that TikTok's privacy policy in late 2018 indicated that user data could be shared "with any member or affiliate of [its] group" in China. It later confirmed to him that "data from TikTok users who joined the service before February 2019 may have been processed in China."

The big picture: The murkiness of TikTok's structure could preview a trend as Chinese companies eye the U.S. and its troves of data. Lorenz's piece touched on an unaffiliated shadow event occurring beside VidCon: the East-West Forum, held by the Tencent-backed Qingteng Club. It "was targeted toward Chinese tech execs looking to enter the American market." As one attendee told her about the off-the-record event...

  • "It was mostly people from Chinese companies trying to learn from Americans; they wanted to know what problems we could have here so they could take those learnings back to China."
  • "Chinese execs were basically like, Tell us everything wrong with your platforms."

The bottom line: While the Big Tech behemoths of the U.S. are barred from making inroads in China, the inverse doesn't apply. That could mark an opening front in the ongoing technological and economic war between the two rivals.

Go deeper: TikTok is rising in the U.S.

Go deeper

Nov 10, 2020 - World

Trump leaves Biden tough choices for his own China playbook

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden isn't likely to pursue a full reset with China, but he quickly must decide which of the Trump administration's many policies to keep and which to scrap.

Why it matters: In a world struggling against the common threats of climate change, nuclear proliferation and an ongoing pandemic, the U.S. must find a way to both challenge and cooperate with a rising authoritarian superpower.

Facebook's dwindling online center

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook and other social media platforms aim to serve users across the political spectrum, but as America's tribal partisan split deepens after a divisive election, more users may start choosing to stick with their own kind.

Why it matters: No competitor will be able to match Facebook's size any time soon, or maybe ever. But the nation's sharp schism is reducing the company's options for keeping users on both left and right engaged — and seeding the online landscape with potential alternatives.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The mental health deal boom

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The positive social media response to Simone Biles withdrawing from Olympic competition highlights how the artificial line between health care and mental health care is finally beginning to dissolve. And startup investors have taken notice.

By the numbers: Venture capital investments in mental health startups rose 72.6% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, per CB Insights.