US government is ‘looking at’ banning TikTok

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TikTok 1
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reservations about TikTok.
Photo: TikTok

The United States is considering banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Speaking with Fox News, Pompeo said “we are certainly looking” at such a ban. When asked if people should download the app, Pompeo said, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

A ban on TikTok would follow the United States’ similar sanctions against China’s Huawei electronics giant as tensions ramp up between the two countries.

CNBC notes that:

“Washington has been on a campaign against Chinese technology firms. Huawei in particular has been in the crosshairs… But TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has also been on the radar since last year. Washington has been concerned that the platform censors content and that its data could be accessed by Beijing.”

TikTok has reportedly taken steps to distance itself from China-based parent company, ByteDance. It hired a former Disney executive, Kevin Mayer, to be its CEO with the goal of “rebuilding trust” with regulators. TikTok is not available for download in China. Instead, there is a version aimed at the local market called Douyin.

U.S. has reservations about TikTok

But it appears, based on Pompeo’s comments, that the U.S. government remains very skeptical. In a statement, TikTok said it “is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. 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.”

If the United States banned TikTok, the move would cause considerable shockwaves. The app is enormously popular, particularly among younger people. In the first three months of 2020, TikTok enjoyed the best quarter of any app ever. While the overwhelming majority of this revenue is from the China (TikTok is available in certain Chinese regions, such as Hong Kong), the United States is its second biggest market.