After the ban on Chinese company Huawei for security reasons, demands are being raised in the US to take tough measures against another Chinese company, TikTok. The US government has launched a national security review of the Chinese-owned video platform TikTok, according to a report by Reuters. TikTok, previously called Musical.ly, a social network where users create and remix short videos set to music was purchased by Chinese company ByteDance in 2017. The US officials are suspicious of the video-sharing platform’s collection of user data, and like Huawei, the company is accused of sharing user data with the Chinese government. The company ByteDance said U.S. user data was stored in the United States, but the senators noted that ByteDance is governed by Chinese laws. There have been reports of the Islamic State posting propaganda on the app. An investigation by The Guardian suggested that TikTok censors videos Beijing does not like, including ones about Tibetan independence. India and the US have emerged as the biggest markets for TikTok.
The number of TikTok users in the United States has grown rapidly in the last few years. In October 2017, the number of US TikTok users was a mere two and a half million, which increased to nearly nine and a half million a year later and crossed the 14 million mark by the end of last financial year. Apart from this, TikTok has become the number one app in terms of downloads on the Apple Store, beating all the other competitors handsomely.
Other figures also show that there has been a huge increase in the number of monthly downloads of TikTok in countries like India and America in Q1 of 2019. In the first quarter of 2019, TikTok was downloaded over 40 million times in India, while in the US it was downloaded 16 million times.
The increasing popularity of the application and the staggering number of users it is reaching has made both New Delhi and Washington wary of the app. Doubts regarding its data-sharing module as well as the quality of content on the platform and its impact on children have kept the governments on their toes. Just a few months ago, the app made the round of news in India when a TikTok star tried to spread terrorism and hatred through it. Some Tiktok stars had tried to provoke people from a particular community through misleading videos.
The worrying trend is that the quality of content is distasteful on the platform and children and adolescents can be harmed in qual measures. The Government of India has also asked many tough questions from TikTok for these reasons. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had recently sought clarification from the app as to why the minimum age of children to use these social media platforms has been kept at 13 years, whereas in India, those below 18 years have been considered as children.
Interestingly, TikTok was banned on these very grounds by the Madras High Court a while back, when a youth live-streamed his own shooting on TikTok. The young man was admitted to the hospital, where doctors declared him dead. It is also said one of the other reasons behind banning the platform was the promotion of child pornography.