TikTok owner admits to spying on American journalists through the app

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ByteDance, which owns the popular social network TikTok, admitted this week that it used the app to spy on American journalists who covered critically about the company. The technology giant was forced to confirm the breach after a Forbes reporter had access to recordings and transcripts of internal meetings in China in which executives commented on the practice.

According to the publication, the company tracked the author of the report, as well as professionals from BuzzFeed News, the Financial Times newspaper and contacts close to them. The goal was to find out which employees were serving as sources and leaking sensitive data to the press.

ByteDance used personal data — such as where they lived, emails and IP addresses — from reporters and cross-referenced it with the employees themselves to find out if they matched. The company initially tried to deny the allegations, but, upon evidence, declared only to be “deeply disappointed” with the case, promising internal changes.

The allegation infuriated American and European politicians. On a trip to Brussels on Wednesday (11), the CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, tried to reassure MEPs by stating that the application was committed to respecting the bloc’s privacy policies and strengthening measures that guarantee the safety of children who access the platform.

Why it matters: The complaint has everything to make life even more difficult for TikTok in the US. The app was almost blocked during the administration of former President Donald Trump, but with Joe Biden this charge was mitigated.

Now, a bill by Senator Marco Rubio is weighing against the company to ban the application once and for all in American territory. Associated with the ultra-right, the Republican obtained the support of a moderate coreligionist, Mike Gallagher, and a Democrat, Raja Rishnamoorthi, indicating that the measure may garner some bipartisan support if it goes to the Congressional vote.

what also matters

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has been reassigned and transferred to a lower position in the government hierarchy. Zhao will now serve as deputy director of the Department of Borders and Ocean Affairs.

Considered one of the regime’s most controversial officials, Zhao has gained notoriety as the face of so-called “warrior wolf diplomacy,” a combative communication style that references an ultranationalist Chinese film of the same name.

During his career at the helm of press briefings, he was notable for a series of controversies —racial taunts against Americans, doctoring of a photo implying that an Australian soldier had killed an Afghan child, and, most famously, the numerous times where he suggested that the coronavirus was a biological weapon created by the US military.

The Beijing Foreign Ministry did not justify the change of position and has not yet announced Zhao’s replacement.

US drugmakers responsible for making drugs to treat Covid are resisting pressure from Beijing to cut prices in China.

Merck & Co, for example, manufactures Molnupiravir. The drug managed to reduce the risk of hospitalization for the disease by up to 50% and is available in several countries. In China, the complete treatment will cost 1500 yen (R$ 1,137), less than the US$ 700 (R$ 3,576) charged in the US, but still higher than expected for developing countries.

Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer and with a rate of reduction in hospitalizations of 88%, is not available for purchase in pharmacies. Negotiations between the Chinese agency that oversees the state medical insurance program and the drugmaker for making generics broke down over the weekend.

In a note posted on the WeChat messenger, Merck reported that it is negotiating for Sinopharm to manufacture Molnupiravir in China, which could make the price drop. Pfizer has not yet commented. Huang Xinyu, from China’s National Health Security Administration, lamented the failure in negotiations with the pharmaceutical company, but assured that he is working to approve new drugs to treat the disease and that competition can solve the price issue.

Keep an eye

Reacting to restrictions imposed on Chinese tourists, Beijing has announced that it will suspend issuing short-term visas to citizens of South Korea and Japan. The measure will only be reviewed when there is “cancellation of discriminatory restrictions” by countries, announced the Chinese embassies in Tokyo and Seoul.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin commented on the decision, saying that China hopes “relevant countries will take scientific and appropriate measures based on facts, rather than using the pandemic to engage in political manipulation or discriminatory practices”.

Why it matters: China’s relationship with South Korea and Japan has always been marked by tensions. Beijing sees both as an extension of American interference in the region and, in the case of Japan, there are still accusations of genocide during World War II – which Tokyo has never acknowledged or offered an apology.

The announcement raises the temperature in China’s neighborhood and makes short-term cooperation more difficult.

The gradual shift of focus from Russia to China puts pressure on the Asian country and could have unpredictable military consequences.

to go deep

  • The Chinese Embassy in Brasília is going to invite three Brazilian families to celebrate the Chinese New Year at a dinner hosted by the new ambassador, Zhu Qingqiao. Anyone who wants to compete needs to sign up for a representation contest on Instagram. (free, in Portuguese)
  • Unesp’s Confucius Institute has opened enrollment for new Mandarin classes. Classes take place online or in person on the university campus. Enrollments go until February 23 and information about values ​​can be checked here. (paid out)

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