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The US May Ban TikTok and other Chinese Social Media Apps

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TikTok’s days in the United States could be numbered. This comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the US is “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media applications. TikTok has surged in popularity this year, attracting millions of users into its short-form video platform. But security concerns revolving around the app have prompted officials to take a second look at its legality.

In a televised interview with Fox News, Pompeo stated that it’s taking the issues with Chinese social media app seriously. Pompeo also warned users that downloading and using TikTok may put private information “in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

This latest development is another hit at souring US-China relations, which has affected everything from trade to technology. In May, President Trump extended the US ban on Chinese company Huawei through 2021. The ban prevents US companies from engaging with Huawei or buying their products and equipment. Only time will tell if TikTok will be the next to be banned in the US.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing platform from Beijing-based startup ByteDance. It merged with another Chinese social media app, Musical.ly, in 2017. It has reached 80 million downloads in the US alone, and more than 2 billion downloads globally. The app has attracted high-profile celebrities and influencers, adding fuel to the fire that has seemingly captivated the world.

Security concerns

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Perhaps because of its unprecedented popularity around the world, TikTok has been the target of several investigations from world governments. Last week, India enacted a permanent ban on Tiktok and 58 other Chinese social media applications. It cited that the apps are threats to the sovereignty and security of India. 

TikTok will also be leaving Hong Kong in the wake of China’s controversial national security law. The move can be seen as an attempt from ByteDance to distance itself from its home country. The company claims that security concerns are unfounded, stating that its data centers are located in the United States and Singapore. 

But it may be too little too late for TikTok. In June, the app was among 54 applications that iPhone-maker Apple flagged for spying on users’ data. Apple’s yet-to-be-released iOS14 detected TikTok periodically gleaning information from users’ clipboards. The new OS will alert users every time an app uses the content of their clipboards, potentially saving millions of users from data theft

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