The National Pulse has been warning about the dangers of the China-controlled social media app TikTok. On Friday evening, President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he planned to ban it.
This move was first hinted at by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
While the U.S. government has never before banned an app, they have taken steps such as sanctioning Chinese hardware manufacturer Huawei.
TIME’S UP FOR TIKTOK.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has been investigating TikTok ever since ByteDance bought the American company Music.ly and merged the two apps to enter the U.S. market.
Prior to President Trump’s statement Friday night, analysts suspected the Administration might use the CFIUS to force ByteDance to divest itself from TikTok entirely, creating a new company outside of Chinese Communist Party control.
Trump indicated that he was not in favor of that plan.
Pressure has been mounting on TikTok for more than a year now. Last fall, several Senators signed a bipartisan letter asking for a review of the app from the Director of National Intelligence. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Defense advised the military to ban TikTok from government-issued devices.
A few months ago, the nation of India outright banned the app, forcing Apple and Google to remove it from their Indian app stores as well as forcing ISPs to block TikTok’s servers, preventing it from working for those who had already downloaded it. It remains to be seen how the Trump Administration will enforce the proposed ban.
And TikTok has been pushing back.
In January, former Trump campaign official Dave Urban registered as a lobbyist for ByteDance. Owning the #1 social media app in the country is lucrative, not only for ByteDance but for Google and Apple which each take a cut of advertising revenues. Big Tech has been vigorously fighting any ban or restriction the Administration might consider.
Earlier this year, ByteDance appointed former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as CEO of TikTok’s US operations. They claim this demonstrates TikTok’s independence from Chinese control.
Responding to the increasing scrutiny about CCP control of TikTok, Mayer said, “We accept this and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind through greater transparency and accountability.”
WHY A BAN MAKES SENSE.
TikTok has consistently been one of the most popular social network apps in America since it was launched in 2018. However, there are many reasons to ban it. Here are the top three:
Data collection: It is bad enough that American-owned apps such as Facebook and YouTube suck up every bit of personal data that they can, but TikTok takes it to another level. Not only do its smartphone apps collect an order of magnitude more data than its competitors, that data is vulnerable to abuse by the Chinese Communist Party, which despite TikTok’s protestations is still ultimately in control of the company. It is difficult to know the extent to which ByteDance, and by extension the CCP, has been able to spy on American citizens for the past two years.
Censorship: In 2018, ByteDance was forced to remove an app that offended CCP leadership, and CEO (and creator of TikTok) Zhang Yimin was forced to write a letter of apology to the Chinese people. There is no reason the CCP could not exercise the same level of control over TikTok as well. Some users have found that TikTok censors videos such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Propaganda: While the Mueller Report spent millions of taxpayer dollars to uncover a few Facebook ads bought by Russian nationals, the CCP has been pushing a tremendous amount of propaganda to the American people. They have been buying our politicians, journalists, and scientific researchers, targeting our schoolchildren with the Confucius Institute, and using an army of bots and workers to push their propaganda on social media. It is not hard to conceive of CCP operatives nudging the TikTok algorithm in order to promote videos that support their political aims while suppressing videos that do not.
While news of TikTok’s ban is welcome for those worried about Chinese Communist Party influence in the United States, the pernicious influence of American social media firms should not be forgotten either.
The biggest winner might be Facebook, which is preparing to launch a social media video app of their own called Instagram Reels.
Banning CCP-owned TikTok is a good step toward protecting the American people from a hostile, foreign regime.
Let us hope the Trump Administration is as forceful with the rest of censor-happy Big Tech as well.