Russia, China Go After TikTok

  • During the operation, it was discovered that child pornogtraphy was being distributed and shared via the platform.
  • TikTok has agreed to cooperate with Russian authorities.
  • After all these findings, China conducted its own investigation, and decided to fine the network as well.

China conducted inspections of the video streaming services TikTok in June. It was based on a formal complaint by Russia. In 2019, Roskomnadzor conducted a compliance check pertaining to TikTok operating in Russia. To note, Russia tightened its legislation in 2018.

At the time of the conducted operation, TikTok servers were not located in Russia, as mandated by the Russian legislation. During the operation, it was discovered that child pornogtraphy was being distributed and shared via the platform.

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. ByteDance first launched Douyin for the China market in September 2016.

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, or Roskomnadzor, is the Russian federal executive body responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.

In the USA, there are over 40 million TikTok users. As of the beginning of this year, there were over 1.5 million Russian users. As of May 2020, TikTok had over 800,000 million users worldwide.

Some 41% of the users are between the ages of 16 and 24. Females use the platform twice as often in comparison to males. In 2020, TikTok already made over $500 million just from the US users.

After the Russian investigation, TikTok has agreed to cooperate with Russian authorities, and also comply with the Russian legislation to have Russian users’ information stored on a servers based in Russia. However, this is not the first incident of such nature.

In 2018, TikTok was caught collecting data of minors in the US without parental consent. The US ordered for TikTOk to pay $5.7 million. Since it is a China-owned platform, it could be plausible that data of its users could be used in the future for cyber attacks and cyber warfare.

After all these findings, China conducted its own investigation, and decided to fine the network as well. The reason for China’s fines are pertaining to vulgar content TikTok shares and permits on its platform.

The Social Credit System is a national reputation system being developed by the Chinese Communist Party. The social credit initiative calls for the establishments of unified record system for individuals, businesses and the government to be tracked and evaluated for trustworthiness.

Consequently, China investigated 31 video streaming and sharing services based in China. Out of the 31 companies, 10 were fined. One of the Tencent-funded video platforms was fined as well.

Tencent Holdings Ltd. is a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company founded in 1998, whose subsidiaries specialize in various Internet-related services and products, entertainment, artificial intelligence and technology both in China and globally.

Besides the fines, the Chinese government banned the video services fined from adding new users or any sort of updates on their platforms. The updates were being used to distribute pornographic material. In China, such material can lead to criminal charges, prison terms, as well as downgrade one’s social credit score, which is needed in China to do everything from travel to pay bills online.

Some of the sites were also accused of facilitating gambling via videos. The findings included that some of the platforms are the threat to morals of the Chinese youth, and a threat to the socialist views for future generations.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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