Why is the United States declaring war on TikTok?

With the RESTRICT Act, the United States claims data protection for its citizens and incidentally does META and Twitter a favor by banning TikTok.

Cell phone with the Tik Tok application

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LatinAmerican Post | Julián Gómez

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué Estados Unidos le declara la guerra a TikTok?

Although the META social networks (WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook) are known to collect data from their users for advertising purposes that could be shared with the US government, the United States declared a visceral war on TikTok for the same thing. The big difference is that the business group that covers this social network is from China, the main geopolitical adversary of the North Americans.

Citing a concern for the privacy of its citizens, the United States Congress is about to pass a law that will ban the use of TikTok in their country. This decision also benefits social networks with American owners such as Twitter and META, which have not yet been able to resist the strength of the Chinese company.

The application each year continues to establish itself as the most downloaded with more than a billion people, on the lookout for Facebook, which triples the number of users. This really worries the United States with the influence that the Chinese government can have on its citizens through this channel, since if it were for privacy, they would have to declare the same war on other social networks.

National security

This issue has been the main pretext for the United States to demand a ban on the social network in their country. They allege that because TikTok shares user data with the Chinese government, every citizen who uses it is likely to be at risk.

Concern is heightened as more than 100 million Americans have the app on their devices. From the government side, they fear that the social network will become or be a channel of political influence that damages the image of their government and, in contrast, will serve as propaganda for the Chinese government.

For this reason, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, director of the United States Committee on Commerce and Energy, summoned Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, a few days ago to testify about whether the application allowed the Chinese government to use their data for Political purposes.

Also read: Does Xi Jinping Have the Formula to Solve the war in Ukraine?

When did the US concern begin?

The first government boycott of TikTok in the United States was started by Donald Trump in 2020. The president's intention was direct, and he opted for several ways to achieve it. First, it tried with its ban from app stores, where it failed; then he wanted to force the owners of TikTok to sell the 'app' to an American company. The latter had a successful history with Grindr, as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States set a deadline for Kunlun (the Chinese company that owned the application) to sell the dating social network three years ago.

As reported by the media at the time, Kunlun had access to private messages from its users and the history of people with HIV. Despite this history of forced sales, Donald Trump failed to achieve the same with TikTok.

In the change of government, Joe Biden took the bar by going back on the war against TikTok while studying the situation. However, concern resurfaced with the conclusions of the report released by the Internet 2.0 company. The study indicated that TikTok collected location data, the terminal used and what other 'apps' the user had on the device. This was done thanks to the company investigating its source code. From then on, a series of restrictions began from the legislative branch with the support of the executive. As a consequence, at the end of December last year, the United States Congress passed a law that restricted TikTok from official devices.

What would the ban look like?

The bill that will try to ban TikTok in the United States is called the RESTRICT Act. It allows the Commerce Department to review agreements, software updates, data transfers, and technological applications in which foreign adversaries have an interest.

Although the law avoids mentioning TikTok, each item falls on this company. It is worth noting that with “foreign adversaries” the law covers Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, in addition to China.

The only history of banning TikTok with geopolitical overtones is India. After a dispute against China, they relied on a law that allowed the removal of websites and applications that violate the country's sovereignty. On the other hand, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran banned the social network because they consider that it violates their social values.

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