TikTok is the next Chinese product the U.S. could shoot down
By: Paul Brandus
08 February 2023
The heaviest fallout from the U.S. shooting down China’s spy balloon could be TikTok being banned from your phone.
“A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let’s shut them all down,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on Twitter. His post has gotten 1.9 million views.
“Now blow up TikTok,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. tweeted after U.S. pilots shot down the balloon.
On the surface, TikTok is nothing more than a short-form video hosting service, known for clever snippets of life that anyone can post. Its use by major celebrities has helped to fuel its spread in the U.S., and today, TikTok has, by one estimate, been downloaded 210 million times.
But there’s one point on which many Democrats and Republicans agree: TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance , can theoretically scoop up vast amounts of user data on Americans and share it with the communist government in Beijing. This scooping can include more than user data, but also personal activity tracked both on and off the app.
This is seen as both a privacy and security issue, says Brandon Pugh, policy director of the cybersecurity and emerging threats team at the R Street Institute. He tells media outlet The Hill, which covers Congress, that TikTok’s vast data collection can be curated and leveraged in certain ways, and used to exploit Americans, particularly those “in sensitive positions or our most vulnerable populations like children.”
That’s a relevant point, given that the vast majority of TikTok users — about 60% — are under the age of 30; one-third are between the ages of 10 and 19. Three-fifths of all TikTok users are girls or young women, and the average user is in the app for a stunning 95 minutes a day. Talk about a captive audience.
In the U.S., 28 states have taken steps to ban TikTok from state-owned electronic devices, with more likely to follow. Most have cited cybersecurity concerns surrounding the app’s ties to the Chinese government. One state, Indiana, is suing TikTok, “to protect children and combat threats from China.”