SHAPING APP DATA PUBLICS AS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE CFIUS-GRINDR AND CFIUS-TIKTOK RULINGS
Keywords:Data publics, Internet governance, LGBTQ+ communities, national security, social media apps
AbstractIn March 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) labelled Grindr as a risk for national security and forced the Chinese conglomerate Kunlun Tech to divest from the queer dating app by June 2020. Later that year, the Committee launched an investigation into the Chinese company ByteDance, owner of the popular app TikTok, after it acquired the app Musical.ly in 2017. The objective of this paper is to compare how the CFIUS-TikTok and CFIUS-Grindr rulings were shaped as national security controversies, as well as to highlight how app data publics are increasingly the subject of discursive struggles to determine whether or how they constitute risk, especially amid the ongoing US-China trade conflict. Drawing from a political economy approach to communication, we collected and analyzed newspaper articles pertaining to the CFIUS-TikTok (n=294) and the CFIUS-Grindr (n=107) rulings. Our analysis highlights how both rulings were framed by construing the Chinese ownership of popular social media apps as a potential threat to US national security by conjuring anti-Chinese sentiment. However, a closer examination revealed that TikTok’s and Grindr’s data publics were made to matter differently. If the CFIUS-TikTok ruling was predominantly framed as a human rights issue, the CFIUS-Grindr investigation was made to matter by depicting LGBTQ+ citizens as higher security risks for the US because of their sexual and gender identities. This paper concludes by raising the implications that datafication poses for the LGBTQ+ communities who have little control over the regulatory frames that oversee their activities online.
How to Cite
Myles, D. (2023). SHAPING APP DATA PUBLICS AS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE CFIUS-GRINDR AND CFIUS-TIKTOK RULINGS. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2022. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2022i0.13059