Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


The heated discussion stirred up by the U.S. regulatory actions against TikTok continues to this day. The nearly predatory popularity of this Chinese application has raised people’s awareness that the country is in urgent need of a fully developed policy in order to deal with the surge of robust foreign digital platforms.

This article gives the contour of the latest development of theories regarding the foreign tech-platforms regulation. Three contemporary frameworks are reviewed. The first laissez faire paradigm inherits the values of early neoliberalism to prevent a “Splinternet,” but its inaction fails to deal with novel security threats ranging from data privacy to economic competitiveness nowadays. The second case-by-case restrictions paradigm is presently the most mainstream and frequently-discussed scheme. It recognizes the blurriness of the existing non-systemic actions and has been flourished with risk assessment methods proposed by scholars. However, the inconsistency, unpredictability and the complexity of rules constitute its inborn deficiency. The last platform-utilities paradigm is a newly-developed innovative approach, which identifies the similarity between the tech-platforms and traditional utilities platforms of political-economy features, and thus provides legitimacy and viability of the sectoral regulation. Nonetheless, the differences between the internet platforms and the traditional utilities platforms, the shift from the U.S. long standing open attitude, and the risk of second order effects, all require further reflection.

All of the proposals are an inspiration for policymakers to rethink the tension between internet freedom and national security. The article concludes by briefly reviewing the TikTok saga chronologically and analyzing the latest regulation attempt of Executive Orders of different States.

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