TikTok app on phone

White House considers ban on Chinese social media apps

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Fox News that the White House is considering a ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps.

Pompeo mentioned that the possible action is being taken “very seriously”, speaking during an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who asked him if the US should consider banning Chinese social media apps.

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right […] I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at,” he said. He added that Americans should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].”

No further details are known about the White House’s plans to take action against Chinese apps.

TikTok – an app for sharing and viewing short-form videos – is among the most popular apps in the world, with more than two billion downloads. It is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. The app has been criticised by US lawmakers, regulators and campaigners for its data collection practices, security flaws and alleged political censorship.

TikTok has strongly rejected accusations that it has any relationship with the CCP. A company spokesperson told Reuters: “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

TikTok emphasised that it has an American CEO; hundreds of US-based employees; US-based servers, and operates independently from its Beijing-based owner. The company claims that none of its data is subject to Chinese law.

Meanwhile, TikTok has announced that it will pull out of Hong Kong - where it has 150,000 users - following the introduction of a new national security law which grants the CCP unprecedented control over the semi-autonomous region.

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson said, declining to give any further details. It is not known whether a censored version of TikTok will be relaunched, whether its sister app Douyin (which is used in China) will be expanded to Hong Kong, or whether it will withdraw altogether.

TikTok is facing myriad challenges from governments all around the world. It was recently banned by the Indian government along with 58 other Chinese apps which were considered a “threat to sovereignty and integrity”, amid a border dispute between India and China. India had been one of TikTok’s largest markets.

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