Nae True Scotsman*

Matthew G. Saroff
2 min readMar 23


In Australia, the Select Committee on Foreign Interference (Talk about setting something up with a preordained conclusion) commissioned a study which concluded that (surprise) TikTok is not really a privately owned firm, but rather an arm of the government of China.

Of course, this means that the app can be banned, or its domestic assets expropriated, through legislative or executive action without any involvement of the courts, despite the general consensus amongst the powers that be in the West† we continue to maintain that our economic system depends not only depends on the rule of law to private businesses, but that it relies on giving private businesses extra-legal rights through trade deals and secret kangaroo courts.

The hypocrisy here is stunning:

ByteDance, the Chinese developer of TikTok, “can no longer be accurately described as a private enterprise” and is instead intertwined with China’s government, according to a report [PDF] submitted to Australia’s Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media.

The report, by a quartet of researchers, was hailed as “the most comprehensive exploration yet of the CCP’s ties to TikTok” by Brendan Carr, commissioner of the United States’ Federal Communications Commission. India’s IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar retweeted Carr’s remarks.

The report alleges that China’s government noticed as Douyin — the Chinese version of TikTok — boomed. Beijing then commenced a campaign employing its “legal and extra-legal mechanisms for influencing, coercing and controlling China’s nominally privately-owned technology companies.”

ByteDance has since become a publisher of state propaganda and built surveillance and analytics capabilities that make both Douyin and TikTok a tool China could use to profile individuals. In the words of the report’s authors, this leaves ByteDance as “a ‘hybrid’ state-private entity.”

How remarkably convenient.

How remarkably self-serving.

You would have to be an idiot to trust that Bytedance/TikTok would keep your personal information safe, just as you would for Twitter, or Instagram, or Google/Youtube, or WhatsApp,, or the criminal enterprise formerly known as Facebook™.

Honestly, I’m not sure who I trust less, the Chinese Communist Party, or domestic social media apps that have been shown repeatedly to lie about your privacy for a few bucks.

*There is a concept in philosophy called the, “No True Scotsman,” fallacy. Basically, you redefine reality to fit the facts. So if I say, “No Scotsman puts sugar on their porridge,” and you say, “My Uncle Angus McTavish puts sugar on his porridge,” I respond, “He’s no true Scotsman.”

†Yes, I know, Australia is actually pretty far east to be called the west, but culturally and economically, it is the west, and buys into the Neoliberal sanctity of private property at all cost bullsh$#.