Trump is considering banning Chinese social media app TikTok

President Trump has said that he was considering banning TikTok, which he implied would punish China for the coronavirus. 

TikTok is a short-form video app especially popular among Gen Z, and it has amassed 1.5 billion downloads. Its parent is the Chinese developer ByteDance.

US lawmakers have expressed concern over possible national security issues, and TikTok has faced accusations of censorship at the request of the Chinese government.

The Pentagon also issued a warning in December that military personnel should delete TikTok from all devices due to “potential security risks associated with its use.”

President Trump said that banning TikTok was “one of many” options he was considering to punish China for the coronavirus on July 7. One day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that administration was weighing banning TikTok due to national security concerns and fear of Chinese surveillance.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the highest-valued privately-held company in the world, and its data collection practices have been scrutinized due to the company’s Chinese ownership, though experts told Business Insider that it’s policies are similar to US apps like Facebook. A feature in Apple’s iOS 14 beta recently caught TikTok accessing clipboard data on devices, reigniting the controversy. TikTok says it has disabled the feature. 

Criticisms of the app go back farther than just the past few months. In September, The Guardian saw internal documents that instructed moderators to censor content that could anger the Chinese government, including mentions of Tiananmen Square or Tibetan Independence.

In a statement, TikTok said that these policies were no longer in use as of May. US lawmakers have also been critical of TikTok as a potential security risk, and Sen. Marco Rubio asked the Trump administration to investigate the app, while Sens. Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton wrote a letter to the head of national security asking for an investigation into the app as a counterintelligence risk.

Here are all the countries, companies, and organizations that have banned TikTok. 

The US Navy banned TikTok from government devices in December.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton

On December 16, the Pentagon sent a “Cyber Awareness Message” that “identifies the potential risk associated with using the TikTok app and directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information,” The Guardian reported. The message also advised military personnel to “uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”

The following week, the Navy banned TikTok from government-owned devices. A Navy bulletin said that members with TikTok accounts who didn’t remove the app from devices would be blocked from the Navy intranet. A Navy spokesperson told The Guardian that generally, Navy personnel are allowed to use social media apps, although sometimes specific apps thought to be security risks are banned. 

The US Army had been advising members against using TikTok since mid-December.

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy speaks at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade ranger graduation at Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2018.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy speaks at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade ranger graduation at Victory Pond at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 26, 2018.

US Army

TikTok was a tool used by the Army for reaching and recruiting Gen Z, until it was banned from government-owned devices in late September, Military.com reported.

An Army spokesperson told Military.com that TikTok “is considered a cyber threat,” and that while the Army cannot ban members from using it on personal devices, it does recommend caution. 

The US Air Force banned TikTok, along with other branches, in early January.

Airman 1st Class Eric Ruiz-Garcia, 63rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, performs an inspection on an F-35A Lightning II at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, December 1, 2017.
Airman 1st Class Eric Ruiz-Garcia, 63rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, performs an inspection on an F-35A Lightning II at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, December 1, 2017.

US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Caleb Worpel

“The threats posed by social media are not unique to TikTok (though they may certainly be greater on that platform),” an Air Force spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

Videos of jet stunts and troops jumping out of planes tend to go viral on the app, and may also pose an additional risk, the Journal reports.

The Coast Guard gave similar reasons for a ban.

coast guard
coast guard

Paul Szoldra/Business Insider

A Coast Guard spokesperson told The New York Times in January: “TikTok is not an application currently used on any official Coast Guard device.”

He also said that Coast Guard members go through an annual cyber awareness training.  

The US Marine Corps expressed similar reasoning for a ban in January.

Source: Yahoo News



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