United States President Donald Trump announced an imminent ban on the social media phenomenon “TikTok” that could happen as early as Saturday, August 1st, 2020 through executive order. The President cites persistent security concerns as the reasoning behind banning Chinese-owned TikTok. Trump’s announcement comes after India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia banned the popular mobile app. Indonesia actually banned the app more than two years ago, citing obscene content.
Unlike Indonesia, the primary concern in the United States regarding TikTok is not obscene content. There’s plenty of that to go around all over social media in the US, unfortunately. This is purely a security issue. And it is not a left vs right thing like allegations of Russian spying are. The House has already passed a measure to ban TikTok from federal devices. Government contractors, especially in Washington, are generally not allowed to use the social app on their devices. Joe Biden’s campaign was told to delete the app as well.
TikTok is no different than any other company operating in Mainland China. The Chinese Government requires nearly all businesses in China to report to them, by law. And not in the way that the United States requires US businesses to operate by law and report financials for tax purposes. China essentially has the right to do whatever they wish with Chinese companies. There are CCP officials on the board of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was replaced with John Brennan. That is the equivalent to how China operates. And they do so unashamedly.
Popularity ≠ Benevolence
TikTok is extremely popular among the youth in the United States and the world. It is one of the most downloaded apps in the world. More 13 to 16-year-old teenagers in the US use TikTok than Facebook, which is tremendous because 98% of all social media activity happens on or through Facebook. This is also a dangerous statistic because it points to a large number of children that can get spied on by the Chinese Communist Party. There is already a ton of information available online that points to TikTok spying on its users, from key-stroke logging to clipboard snooping.
Nearly all social media apps collect data and sell it. That’s the business plan for nearly all free mobile applications. Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang likened data to the new “oil” when referencing its value. The key difference with TikTok is that it must report to the CCP, by law. The Chinese Communist Party can do whatever they want with data that TikTok collects.
Do As WeSay, Not As WeDo
There is actually a ban on TikTok in Mainland China although TikTok is a Chinese app. There is a version of TikTok available in China called Douyin (Chinese: 抖音), but Douyin is not TikTok. The two apps are mechanically the same, but that is where the similarities stop. Douyin is an entirely separate entity with an entirely separate user base from TikTok. There are mega-stars on the TikTok platform that no Chinese person will ever see if they don’t use a VPN to download TikTok.
Some of the more overt censorship and spying that China does with Douyin is simply dumbed-down and regionalized on TikTok. Political hot potatoes are allowed to persist on TikTok, as long as no criticism of China happens. Obscenity is fine as well, but not so much in Mainland China on Duoyin.
Typical Behavior Pattern
China is just as notorious for spyware mobile apps as they are for physical, in-person spying all around the world. Several other Chinese apps are no longer available on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store due to being no more than spyware. Apps that seem harmless like clocks and calendars. Most of these apps have very high downloads and might even be at the top of the most-downloaded lists in each store. High download numbers may point to an aggressive marketing campaign from the CCP to simply harvest more data, maybe even to mine BitCoin, which is an entirely different topic.
The China / US trade war is, of course, an on-going thing. The mobile app dispute happening now could be seen as part of that but the most important thing is security. Huawei devices were banned for the same reason.
TikTok celebrities are upset about the decision of course, but they will find a way to rebound. Similar to MySpace and Vine stars. The most important thing here is the security of not just the United States, but the world. A few fewer dance stars and a handful of upset social media users will be seen as a small price to pay once this moment is looked back on in the future.
Trump says he will ban TikTok through executive action as soon as Saturday
India Bans TikTok, WeChat and Dozens of Other Chinese Apps – The New York Times
Biden’s campaign tells staff to delete TikTok from their phones – CNNPolitics
ByteDance Said to Offer to Sell TikTok’s U.S. Operations – The New York Times
House votes to ban TikTok on federal devices – POLITICO
More younger members of Generation Z use TikTok than Facebook – Axios
Tiktok and Douyin are not the same – China Social Media
Microsoft Is in Talks to Acquire TikTok, as U.S. Considers Banning the App – WSJ
TikTok caught spying on users thanks to new iPhone iOS 14 feature
AMAZON BANS EMPLOYEES FROM USİNG TIKTOK | DesEscrow.com
How to Access TikTok from China – The complete guide