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U.S. says it’s considering banning TikTok

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Jul 7, 2020, 11:35 am*

Internet Culture

Libby Cohen 

Libby Cohen

The United States is considering a ban on TikTok according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made the statement in an interview yesterday.

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The news comes during a tumultuous stretch for TikTok in the U.S. Its popularity soared with 315 million downloads from January to March, according to CNN. However, it’s faced significant, bipartisan pushback.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) led the call for a national security investigation regarding the app’s parent company ByteDance in November of last year.

Pompeo said that the White House is considering the ban in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday.

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he said. “I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at.”

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He confirmed that TikTok was among the apps they were “looking at.”

Concerns arose last year when senators from both sides questioned the safety of user information at ByteDance. ByteDance is located in Beijing. TikTok has said all U.S. user data is stored in the U.S.

TikTok was also accused of censoring anti-China content like videos that supported the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

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“Security experts have voiced concerns that China’s vague patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” the senators wrote.

TikTok responded to those concerns back in November. It said that the Chinese government does not have access to user information. It also denied any forms of censorship beyond the app’s guidelines.

“We store all TikTok U.S. user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore,” TikTok said in a statement. “Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law.”

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Tensions are rising between the U.S. and China, particularly over U.S. support of the protests in Hong Kong. Pompeo tweeted yesterday in support of the region.

“With the ink barely dry on the draconian National Security Law, HK authorities are now removing books from libraries, banning political slogans, and requiring censorship in schools. The U.S. condemns these Orwellian assaults on the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people,” he tweeted.

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In addition, the Federal Trade Commission announces a ban on Chinese telecom companies including Huawei and ZTE, according to BuzzFeed. These bans were also made on the basis of national security

In a statement to the Daily Dot, TikTok highlighted its U.S. ties.

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“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users,” a spokesperson for TikTok said. “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

This post has been updated with TikTok’s response.

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*First Published: Jul 7, 2020, 10:24 am