Here is a syllogism: TikTok is owned by a company called ByteDance. ByteDance is based in Beijing. Therefore, Washington is moving to ban TikTok in the United States.
Just this week the US House of Representatives voted to prohibit federal employees, including senators and reps, from using TikTok on government devices. Politico reports that the amendment (it’s part of a $741 billion “defense” budget bill) passed comfortably—336-71.
Why any federal employee would want to use TikTok in the first place is beyond me. Last I checked it was an app for preteens. But I suppose that is neither here nor there.
The point, according to Washington, is that TikTok represents a unique national security threat. Asked whether Americans ought to use TikTok, America’s top diplomat—the fleshy Mike Pompeo—said:
“Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The argument being that TikTok collects its users’ data and then shares said data with the sordid Politburo. It’s not a frivolous concern, and TikTok’s insistence that it would never ever do such a wicked thing is not impressive. It’s just really hard to agree with Mike Pompeo, who went on to say that banishing TikTok, along with other Chinese apps, is “something we’re looking at.”
Well, this has reportedly engendered a frenzy in the American business world. A group of investors is considering purchasing a majority stake in the app with a view to saving it. TikTok hasn’t commented on this development yet, simply stating that “We are very confident in the long-term success of TikTok and will make our plans public when we have something to announce.”
But even if such a change in majority ownership were to occur, Washington probably wouldn’t be mollified. Paul Triolo, head of global tech policy at Eurasia Group, put it this way to CNN:
“It does not seem likely that US investors alone buying a majority ownership stake would satisfy CFIUS or broader US government concerns about the Chinese ownership piece and the potential for US personal data to find its way back to Beijing.”
TikTok is under fire elsewhere too. India has already banned it and other Chinese apps following a deadly skirmish between Indian and Chinese soldiers along their mutual border in the Himalayas.