TikTok May Be Banned in the US and Hong Kong

By Adriaan Brits Sunday, July 26, 2020

TikTok is one of the most popular non-gaming apps on the market. In 2019, the app was downloaded 738 million times worldwide. Today, it is available in over 150 markets around the world in 39 languages. The app allows users to do comedy skits, dances, and lip-syncing to soundbites from TV shows and movies.

TikTok was created by the Chinese company ByteDance, and the Chinese version of the app is instead called Douyin. The company was founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming.

TikTok may sound like a harmless app to use, but the app has actually caused global political tensions.

Where Is TikTok Currently Banned?

Even though 323 million TikTok downloads came from India in 2019, Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok India, publicly announced on Instagram that “[t]he Government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including [TikTok] and we are in the process of complying with it.”

The statement also specifically stated, “[TikTok] continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and has not shared any information of the users in India with the foreign government, including the Chinese government.”

However, the reason why TikTok and other apps on Chinese android phones such as Xiaomi, are banned in India is that the government believes that they pose threats to Indian national security and defense.

What Countries are Planning on Banning TikTok?

In 2019, US lawmakers investigated both TikTok and China as a whole over concerns about the usage of the company’s data. On July 6, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News that America is looking to ban Chinese apps, including TikTok. The US government is looking at restricting users from TikTok since they believe that the app is associated with the Beijing government, which uses the app to monitor people.

A TikTok spokesperson recently announced that “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong.” This move could be due to the recent Hong Kong security national law, which grants expanded powers to the Chinese government. That law could mean that the app would have to send user data to the Chinese mainland.

TikTok is not alone in this endeavor. Other social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Telegram have all stated that they are planning to stop or suspend data review requests from the Hong Kong government. Some consider this move to be an open stand against Chinese censorship and surveillance.

What We Currently Know

TikTok has come under fire many times with what content is suitable for their regulations. Sparks flew when the app banned a video of a girl criticizing China and its policies on Muslim detention camps. Following global press coverage, the app reversed the video ban. Still, critics raised concerns about whether the app forces its users to be in line with the censorship directives from Beijing — a claim that the company denies.

That incident was not the only one: transgender TikTok users have reported having their sounds or posts removed by TikTok, as well as a ban on pro-LGBT content. Other users claimed that posts relating to the Black Lives Matter movement were being silenced on the app.

It seems that even though the app is loved globally by teenagers, influencers, and artists, it has caused controversy surrounding the privacy and regulations of the data user activity. However, TikTok is again not alone: many major social media apps such as Facebook have been under pressure for similar reasons. This heightened scrutiny has caused users and governments to speculate on whether any social media is safe from prying eyes.

About the Author

Headshot of author Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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