- On friday night,Trump said that he might ban TikTok, the announcement brought chaos to its user community.
- The U.S has expressed concern over TikTok's handling of user data, saying that they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies 'to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party'.
- TikTok the wildly popular app, boasts of half a billion users.
A little lip-sync video platform called Musical.ly was based in Shanghai with offices in Santa Monica, California. It was bought by ByteDance, headquarted in Beijing. In August 2018, it was rebranded as TikTok, and then downloads of the app doubled worldwide. TikTok is an app whose bulk users are teens and those in their twenties. Reese Witherspoon asked Deacon Phillipie, her teenaged son to teach her about TikTok. Jimmy Fallon, the king of late night viral videos used his own in-app challenge called #tumbleweedchallenge and got into TikTok action.
TikTok attracts the youth with its mix of viral dance crazes and lip-sync comedy sketches, where like on you Youtube users can post videos up to one minute long and choose from a huge database of songs and fillers. Users are also offered comedy clips and film quotes to lip-sync to. If a user has more than 1,000 followers, the user can also broadcast live to their fans and accept digital gifts which can be exchanged for money. The TikTok app displays videos of people a user follows and the content the app chooses is always based on what the user has watched before. Users can use private messaging too.
After the corona pandemic, TikTok and its sister app Douyin, which is available in China, received an estimated two billion downloads worldwide with about 800 million active users. So, TikTok a video-sharing platform, might be world’s fastest growing social app. Users can shoot, edit and share 15-second videos jazzed up with filters, music, animation, special effects and more. TikTok can be used on ios and android operating systems. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance’s website says “it is one of the first companies to launch mobile-first products powered by machine learning technology.” It was founded in an effort “to combine the power of artificial intelligence with the growth of mobile internet to revolutionize the way people consume and receive information.”
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Interestingly, in China, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are all banned, TikTok known as Douyin in China grew to 400 million active monthly users in 2018. TikTok is available in over 150 countries, has over 1 billion users, and has been downloaded over 175 million times in the United States alone.
TikTok is under scrutiny in Australia for its ties to China, with some of the country’s top cyber and national security minds warning the app could potentially be used by Beijing authorities to influence and monitor millions of Australian users. Fergus Ryan, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), warned parents of young users not to be fooled by TikTok’s similarities to US-owned platforms like Facebook and Instagram. “The amount of data that all these apps collect on their users is very concerning,” he said.
Like most social media apps, TikTok collects a huge amount of personal information about its users by demanding access to their phone’s camera, microphone, contact list and location using GPS tracking. Federal MP and chairman of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Andrew Hastie, fears that TikTok could be sharing that private information with authorities in Beijing. “China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 means the Chinese Government can compel businesses to share information with them,” he said.
Indian Prime Minister Modi has banned ByteDance’s tik tok, Alibaba’s UC Browser, Tencent’s WeChat, and more than 50 other, mostly Chinese-owned, mobile apps. Modi said, “India will not allow intervention of foreign ideologies in its local politics- because that would be prejudicial to its sovereignty.” The move was considered a slap on the wrist of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for making moves to grab India’s territory in eastern Ladakh and not de-escalating. Nationalists in India see it as a warning salvo at the establishment in China to behave or be ready for more punishment on the economic front.
TikTok has come under fire in Pakistan too. Pakistan has blocked the Bigo Live streaming app and issued a “final warning” to ByteDance’s Tik Tok over “immoral, obscene and vulgar content” on the apps.
Zak Doffman says in Forbes, that as a TikTok user, like all other social media apps, don’t expect data security or privacy. But as a citizen do you feel comfortable using a Chinese-owned social media app? TikTok is an app, whose Chinese-market twin, Douyin, is censored and restricted and likely monitors its users. Look at the situation in Hong Kong. Then you can make an informed choice.
This weekend, the Trump administration gave TikTok’s parent company ByteDance 45 days to sell it off or else to stop operating in the United States– and Microsoft looks to be the buyer. Microsoft confirmed that it is in talks to buy TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and may also invite other US investors to take minority stakes in the deal. Microsoft may be TikTok’s only hope. While other big tech firms may be a more natural fit to acquire TikTok, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple are facing antitrust scrutiny that would likely get in the way of an acquisition.
According to Trump, he wants Microsoft to purchase TikTok in its entirety, rather than a stake in the company. He claimed that “a very substantial portion” of the money, Microsoft pays for TikTok “is gonna have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we’re making it possible for this deal to happen.”