TikTok, the popular short-video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has faced increasing scrutiny and restrictions from governments around the world over concerns about data security, content moderation and political influence. The US and its allies have been leading the efforts to ban or limit the app’s access on official devices and networks, while China has opposed any attempts to force a sale or block the app’s operations.
The US has been the most vocal critic of TikTok, accusing it of posing a threat to national security and privacy by collecting and sharing users’ data with the Chinese government. The US has also expressed worries that TikTok could be used for misinformation and propaganda by Beijing. The US has imposed sanctions on ByteDance and demanded that it sell its US operations to an American company or face a possible ban in the country.
Last week, the Biden administration renewed Trump-era efforts to pressure ByteDance to divest from TikTok by giving federal agencies 30 days to delete the app from government devices. On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before a congressional hearing, where he faced bipartisan questions and criticism about data security, alleged racial bias and mental health effects. A House committee also backed legislation that would allow President Biden to ban TikTok from all devices nationwide.
The US is not alone in its efforts to restrict TikTok. Several other countries and government bodies have also banned the app from official devices or networks, citing similar concerns about data security and political influence. These include Britain and its Parliament, Canada, the executive arm of the European Union, France, India, New Zealand’s Parliament and more than two dozen US states. Some colleges and universities have also blocked TikTok from campus Wi-Fi networks.
China has strongly opposed any moves to ban or limit TikTok’s access in foreign markets. The Chinese government has said that it would not allow ByteDance to sell TikTok under pressure from the US, and that any change in ownership would need to comply with Chinese regulations. China has also accused the US of abusing its state power and damaging investor confidence by discriminating against foreign companies. China has also defended TikTok’s data security and content moderation practices, saying that they are transparent and compliant with local laws.
China countered the US-led campaign against TikTok by expanding its own presence and influence in the global digital market. China has promoted its own social media platforms, such as WeChat and Weibo, as alternatives to Western apps. China has also invested in developing its own digital infrastructure, such as 5G networks and cloud services. China has also sought to cooperate with other countries on data security and governance issues, such as through its Global Initiative on Data Security.