As the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok continues to gain popularity around the world, it has also drawn attention from governments concerned about national security risks. The United States is leading the charge, with a growing number of federal and state agencies banning the app from government-issued devices. But is this move justified, or is it just another example of the U.S. targeting Chinese companies as it did with Huawei?
There is no doubt that TikTok has become a global phenomenon, with millions of users sharing short videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing, and performing skits (myself included). However, the app’s Chinese ownership has raised concerns about the security of user data and the potential for the Chinese government to access that data.
Given the potential ‘risks’ to national security, it is understandable why some governments would want to and have banned TikTok from government-issued devices. However, the question remains whether this is the best approach right?
Critics argue that the U.S. is targeting TikTok because of its Chinese ownership, rather than any specific security concerns. They point to the U.S. government’s previous actions against Chinese tech giant Huawei, which was accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and stealing trade secrets. The U.S. ultimately banned Huawei from doing business with U.S. companies, a move that effectively cut off the company’s access to critical components like semiconductors effectively killing the smartphone manufacturer, well, you know what I mean.
In both cases, the U.S. government is using national security concerns to justify its actions. However, there are a few differences between the two cases. While Huawei was accused of specific violations of U.S. law, TikTok’s potential security risks are more hypothetical and just dumb, this is if the videos we are seeing of questions the TikTok CEO Shou Chew was asked when he testified before the House Committee for Energy and Commerce, about concerns over the popular app’s potential national security threats and its connections to China.
Additionally, Huawei is a major player in the telecommunications industry, with significant ties to the Chinese government, while TikTok is a social media app with a primarily younger user base.
Still, the U.S. government’s actions against TikTok raise important questions about the balance between national security and free market competition. If the U.S. is truly concerned about TikTok’s potential security risks, then it should work with the company to address those concerns rather than simply banning the app outright. At the same time, it is important for governments to protect their citizens’ privacy and security, especially when it comes to sensitive information.
Forcing a TikTok sale is also not the right move in my opinion, it sets a dangerous precedent for government intervention in private business transactions. By forcing a foreign company to sell its business to an American company, the government is essentially overstepping its bounds and interfering with the free market.
Second, the supposed national security concerns surrounding TikTok are largely based on speculation and have not been substantiated by any concrete evidence. While it is true that TikTok collects user data, as do many other social media platforms, there is no evidence that this data has been misused or that the app poses a threat to national security. In fact, TikTok has repeatedly stated that it stores user data in the US and Singapore and has implemented strict data security measures to protect user privacy.
Third, the forced sale of TikTok sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow. If the US can force a foreign company to sell its business, what is to stop other countries from doing the same? This could lead to a situation where every country is demanding that foreign companies sell their business to local companies, which would create a highly fragmented global market and would be detrimental to businesses and consumers alike.
Let me sum this up, the U.S. government’s actions against TikTok and its parent company ByteDance raise important questions about national security, privacy, and trade. While it is understandable that governments want to protect their citizens and their data, the measures taken against TikTok seem disproportionate and discriminatory.
By forcing TikTok to be sold and banning it on federal devices, the U.S. government is sending a message to other foreign companies that they are not welcome in the U.S. market, regardless of their track record or potential benefits. Instead of resorting to protectionism and fear-mongering, governments should engage in constructive dialogue with technology companies, including those from China (despite the country literally blocking all apps from the US), and work towards international standards for data protection and cybersecurity.
What do you think of the whole thing? Should TikTok be banned?