Is Trump right to threaten banning TikTok in the U.S.?
- Since launching in 2016, TikTok has reached over 500 million global monthly active users. Zhang Yiming is the billionaire founder behind TikTok and its parent company ByteDance.
- On Monday, Trump set September 15 as the deadline for TikTok to find a US buyer before shutdown. Trump said the deal in question would have to include a 'substantial amount of money' coming to the US Treasury.
- Politicians have raised concerns about TikTok as a potential national security threat, worrying that the app could censor content in the US or access American users’ data.
- The majority of TikTok’s users are located in Asia. In India, TikTok has been downloaded more than 611 million times, which makes up approximately 30 percent of the app’s total downloads. The United States ranks third, with 165 million to date - around 8 percent of the total TikTok downloads worldwide.
TikTok has found its way on the home screens of nearly 100 million Americans and has manifested itself so deep in American culture that it's difficult to understand the immediate threat it poses. The dangers of the app vary from suspicious censorship to inexcusable data mishandlings, which all connect to the app's loyalty to the Chinese government. In November of 2019, teenager Feroza Aziz tweeted that TikTok had suspended her account after she posted a video condemning China's treatment of Uighur Muslims. Critics of President Trump have pointed to the fact that a ban of TikTok threatens freedom of speech. However, this instance and many others question TikTok's own upholding of that principle. TikTok leaks have also revealed that at one point, moderators were instructed to avoid promoting 'abnormal body shape' on the app. This omitting policy doesn't align with American values. When IOS 14 was released, the app was caught accessing the clipboards of its users; information that was private and potentially damaging. In response to this, the Department of Defense warned Americans not to use TikTok over national security concerns. Under Hong Kong's new national security laws, China has control over TikTok's collection of data and is capable of using it for prosecution of dissent. This regulation exposes how TikTok is submissive to the communistic nature of the Chinese government. Despite the sensation that the app is, collecting the data of children, implementing body-shaming policies, and pledging allegiance to a dangerously capable foreign nation is enough to justify President Trump's decision to move forward with a nation-wide ban.
Foreign policy and Donald Trump have conflated in the hasty decision making surrounding the viral app, TikTok. The Beijing-based company, ByteDance, currently owns TikTok. Trump has stated his feelings toward the application are based on the security risk of U.S. privacy and the Chinese government. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stated, 'It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they're connected to. Those — those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we're going to take care of.' Fact-checking that statement in conjunction with a USA Today article regarding that assertion shows the application doesn't collect any residence information, allowing users to privatize their profile similar to Instagram or Facebook.
Another point of concern regarding TikTok is its affiliation with the Chinese government. As this is a big point of emphasis for Trump in his conversations on the subject, wouldn't the app have justifiable ties to the government other than it's basis in China? By that logic, it would abstain from as much U.S. employer interference and not have tripled its U.S. employee count in the last year with a promise to bring 10,000 more jobs to the U.S. in the coming years.
This threat is just the latest move to continue strong-arming companies, like CNN and NBC, that have threatened Trump personally. Let's not forget his latest rally was undermined by the TikTok community who surged the Trump rally sales in June, leaving the rally vastly unattended by its original estimates. This move for Trump pushes the envelope for government control over social media.