Should the U.S. Government Ban TikTok?
UPDATE: President Trump has confirmed that his administration is considering a ban on TIkTok and other apps based in China.
"It's something we're looking at, yes," Trump told Greta Van Susteren. He said a ban on Chinese apps is just one option he's considering to punish China over its mishandling of and dishonesty about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Full disclosure: I don't use TikTok. I'm a single, pasty, chubby guy in his 30's. TikTok's not for me.
That said, I see at least a dozen TikTok videos a day that, like Vine videos before them, prove that everyday people can be hilarious and creative. When you give them a platform, they'll demonstrate that for the world and we all benefit.
So why would anyone want to ban an app that's bringing joy to so many people at a time when we're all stressed to the max?
If you ask Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it's because China could be using TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps as "appendages of the [Communist Party of Chinas]'s surveillance state".
Pompeo's remarks came after India's government banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing risks to data security, privacy, and sovereignty.
It's worth noting that the ban was issued after Indian and Chinese troops clashed in disputed territory in the Himalayas, during which 20 Indian soldiers were reportedly killed. (The Chinese government hasn't given any clear picture of how many of their troops may have been injured or killed.)
Speaking to FOX News' Laura Ingraham Monday, Pompeo stopped short of saying a ban was in the works, but said he and President Trump are taking India's ban and Australia's security claims seriously. (The Aussies are reportedly considering a ban as well, though TikTok's Australian arm denies this.)
Pompeo did not mention TikTok specifically in his remarks to Ingraham, but said the Trump administration has been concerned about the prevalence of Huawei and ZTE technology for some time. When asked if he would recommend anyone download Chinese-based apps, Pompeo responded, "Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."
Back in April, TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads, and that figure didn't even account for downloads from third-party app stores in China. The Verge reported that India, China, and the US were the top countries for downloads of the platform.
While it's been a creative outlet for millions of people during the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok does have a dark side, whether you believe its branches outside of China are sharing user information with the CPC or not.
In China, the Beijing-based company has censored content critical of the CPC, related to ongoing protests in Hong Kong, or shining a light on human rights violations. TikTok has censored content in other nations as well depending on their cultural norms.
Right now, talk of a ban in the US is just that - talk. Whether you choose to download or continue to use TikTok is going to depend on whether you trust the company's American branch when they say they store user information and media on servers in Virginia and Singapore, and do not share that information with the CPC.
I'm not saying you should or shouldn't use TikTok. That's up to you. I understand its appeal, and as I mentioned above, I love the funny and creative content I see people sharing on a daily basis.
I will say that just like with any other app or social media site, you should always give thought to what sort of information you're providing when you sign up or make regular use of it. If you make a video, keep in mind that the entire world may see it.
Have fun and be creative, but also be mindful of what you're showing the world about your family, your home, and yourself.