TikTok faces increasing government scrutiny and bans around the world

TikTok has faced bans in multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. The reasons for these bans vary, but they all reflect concerns about TikTok’s links to China through its parent company, ByteDance, and the possibility that the Chinese government could pressure the company to hand over users’ personal information.

The UK government announced a ban on the use of TikTok on official government devices due to concerns about the app’s links to China and the risk of user data being handed over to the Chinese government. According to UK Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden, the ban is based on a specific risk with government devices. TikTok expressed disappointment at the decision and denied any links with the Chinese government.

In Canada, the European Union, and New Zealand, the bans are broader and apply to all users. In New Zealand, the country’s military and government officials were banned from using the app in 2019, citing security concerns. The New Zealand government has stated that the app poses significant risks to individuals and organizations in terms of cybersecurity and privacy.

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In India, TikTok was banned in 2020 following border tensions with China, which led to a crackdown on Chinese-owned apps. The ban was a part of India’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Chinese technology and to support local app developers. The government stated that the apps were a threat to India’s sovereignty and security.

In the United States, TikTok has faced multiple threats of a ban. The Trump administration first threatened to ban the app in 2020 if it did not divest from its Chinese owners. The Biden administration has continued this pressure, with federal officials demanding that the app’s Chinese owners sell their stake in the social media platform, or risk facing a US ban of the app. Some in Washington have expressed concerns that the app could be infiltrated by the Chinese government to spy on American users or gain access to US user data. Others have raised alarms over the possibility that the Chinese government could use the app to spread propaganda to a US audience.

TikTok has responded to these bans by expressing disappointment and stating that they are based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics. TikTok CEO Shou Chew has said that the Chinese government has never asked for user data and the company would not provide it if they did. Chew emphasized that TikTok’s user data is stored by default in the Oracle Cloud infrastructure and that access to that data is entirely controlled by its owners. The company has said that it is voluntarily working to address security concerns by taking technical and bureaucratic measures to wall off user data from its global operations.

Overall, the bans on TikTok in various countries reflect growing concerns about the security and privacy risks posed by Chinese-owned technology companies. As tensions between China and other countries continue to rise, it remains to be seen whether more countries will follow suit and ban TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps.

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