The United States may join the list of countries set to ban the Chinese social media app TikTok. This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was looking at banning Chinese apps, including the ridiculously popular TikTok.
The U.S. would follow in the steps of India, which banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese apps. India and China have recently been embroiled in brutal border fights which killed 20 Indian soldiers. The official reason for the bans was security concerns, as Chinese apps have been accused of harvesting user data and giving the Chinese Communist Party a back door to broaden its surveillance state.
Further complicating the technology landscape is China's controversial National Security Law in Hong Kong, which effectively ends the autonomy the city has enjoyed for decades. The controversial new law limits free speech and puts an end to the protests against the Chinese government that have been a regular occurrence in the city.
In response to the new law, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom announced they have suspended processing requests for user data in Hong Kong. The social media apps have operated freely in Hong Kong, but have been traditionally banned in China. TikTok joined the other brands this week, announcing the company would quit Hong Kong in an attempt to distance itself from China.
TikTok has made further attempts to separate itself from the Chinese Communist Party in recent months, including hiring former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its CEO. The app, which has been downloaded more than two billion times over the past three years, stands to lose most of its users if Western nations continue to ban it.
"I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users," said Mayer in a letter to the Indian government last week. "If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply."
The company has also stated it would never share any user data with China. That hasn't allayed concerns in the US and other countries, and this week Australia also issued a warning. The country's deputy chairman of the foreign interference through social media inquiry stated that TikTok may be "a data collection service disguised as social media."
As TikTok remains under siege, competitive companies have already been gaining in popularity. Several Indian apps with platforms similar to the popular social media app have seen a spike in downloads since the TikTok ban. And Facebook is aggressively pushing its Instagram Reels features, which enables users to post fun, 15-second videos similar to TikTok's format.
Edited by Maurice Nagle