Plus: Absurd takes from the archives, a tribute to small devices, and another setback for Covid testing.

Plus: Absurd takes from the archives, a tribute to small devices, and another setback for Covid testing.

Hello, Plaintext readers! Im Louise Matsakis, a staff writer here at WIRED, where I cover TikTok, Amazon, and China. This week Im stepping in for my colleague Steven Levy, who graciously gave me the opportunity to chat with you while hes on vacation.
I was camping last weekend, sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows, when news first broke that President Trump said he was banning TikTok from the United States. The announcement wasnt totally unexpected: White House officials had been saying for weeks beforehand that they planned to do something about the social media platform, as well as other Chinese-owned apps, over concerns they pose a risk to national security. Still, I found the news alarming. The security and human rights challenges that Chinas authoritarian regime poses cant be dismissed, but Trumps proclamationand the dubious executive orders that followed on Thursdaystunk of hypocrisy, as WIREDs editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson deftly pointed out. The US has long criticized China for censoring its internet, and it seems as though we might be heading down a similar path.
As is typical when it comes to Trump, it wasn’t obvious what, if anything, might happen next. By Sunday, when I was packing up my tent, Microsoft had announced that it was discussing buying TikTok from its parent company, the Chinese tech giant ByteDance. Microsoft is, of course, best known for selling enterprise software. Initially, it seemed strange that it was interested in an app famous for lip-syncing teens. But as my colleague Will Knight noted earlier this week, Microsoft has deep roots in China: ByteDances founder and CEO even worked there for a short stint.
Talks between the two companies are ongoing, and Microsoft says it plans to make a final decision about the acquisition by September 15. In the meantime, the Trump administration is moving even closer toward enacting its own Great Firewall. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new plan to scrub Americas internet of all connections to China. The Clean Initiative is ostensibly about protecting US citizens from Chinese spying, but its noteworthy that Pompeos announcement uses the word clean far more times than it does security. Then late Thursday night, Trump ratcheted up tensions even more when he signed two executive orders prohibiting any US company or person from transacting with TikTok or WeChat, the messaging platform owned by Tencent. Its not clear what their actual impact may be, and the orders dont take effect for 45 days.

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