TikTok, the hugely popular short-form video app owned by the Chinese business ByteDance, has come under increased pressure from lawmakers in the US, Europe, and Canada in recent months due to security concerns.
Federal agencies were given 30 days by the White House on Monday to remove the software from government-owned smartphones. Recently, the software was prohibited from being used on official devices by Canada and the executive branch of the European Union.
On Wednesday, a House committee voted to approve legislation that would enable President Joe Biden to outlaw TikTok nationally from all devices, taking an even more severe stance. Here’s why TikTok, which claims that more than 100 million Americans use it, is under increased pressure.
China is the key to everything.
Western legislators and authorities have grown more concerned that TikTok and its parent firm, ByteDance, may provide the Chinese government access to private user data, such as location data. They have cited legal provisions that permit the Chinese government to covertly request information from Chinese businesses and individuals for intelligence collection purposes. They are also concerned that China might spread false information via TikTok’s content recommendations.
Such claims have long been refuted by TikTok, who has also made an effort to disassociate itself from ByteDance.
ByteDance lost one of its main markets when India banned the platform in the middle of 2020 after cracking down on 59 Chinese-owned applications for allegedly sending user data covertly to servers outside of India.
TikTok has been barred from campus Wi-Fi networks by many institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin, Auburn University, and Boise State University, as well as more than two dozen states since November. On US government computers used by the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, the programme has already been prohibited for three years. Personal gadgets are often exempt from the bans. Additionally, many students only utilise cellular data to access the app.
Some members are interested. A bill that would give the president the power to outright forbid the platform was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week. (Previous attempts by the Trump administration to accomplish this were blocked by the courts.)
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., pushed for a provision that prohibited TikTok on all federally-issued devices, and it was passed in December as part of a spending package. He then introduced a bill in January to outlaw the app for all Americans. A different, bipartisan bill that was submitted in December sought to outlaw TikTok as well as any other comparable social media firms operating in nations like Iran and Russia.
Although the White House recently mentioned an ongoing assessment in response to inquiries regarding TikTok, things have generally remained quiet. In order to resolve concerns about TikTok and ByteDance’s relations with the Chinese government and the handling of user data, TikTok has been in secret talks with the administration’s review panel for years, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Since submitting a 90-page proposal in August outlining its plans to operate in the United States while resolving national security concerns, TikTok has claimed that it has received almost no feedback.
Most of the current TikTok bans have been put into place by institutions of higher learning and governmental entities with the authority to prevent an app from being used on their networks or devices.
According to Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a more extensive government-imposed restriction that prevents Americans from using an app that allows them to share their opinions and artwork may be legally challenged on First Amendment grounds. After all, a sizable portion of Americans now create films for TikTok, including prominent news institutions like The New York Times and The Washington Post and public figures.
“In democratic governments, the government can’t just ban free speech or expression without very strong and tailored grounds to do so, and it’s just not clear that we have that yet,” said Chin.
According to Chin, the US may prevent TikTok from selling commercials or updating its infrastructure, therefore rendering it useless.
Downloads of outdated apps are blocked by Apple and other app store operators. According to Justin Cappos, a professor at the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University, they also prohibit apps that contain offensive or unlawful information. They can also uninstall apps that have been downloaded to a user’s phone. He answered, “Normally, it doesn’t happen.
The prohibitions have been described to as “political theatre” by TikTok, which also chastised politicians for trying to regulate Americans. According to Brooke Oberwetter, a spokesperson for TikTok, “the proposed deal that we worked with them on for nearly two years is the swiftest and most comprehensive method to address any national security concerns regarding TikTok.