TikTok is popular no doubt, but it is not ticking the right box in the US

  • Jun 19, 2020 NZST
  • Team Kalkine
TikTok is popular no doubt, but it is not ticking the right box in the US


  • The direction of the US-China relations is expected to affect TikTok, which is cited by the US senators to breach the country’s privacy laws. 
  • Ethical concerns over Child Information privacy could impede the growing popularity of the application.
  • The appointment of US executives at top positions in TikTok management is regarded as the company’s strategic effort for improving its reputation and future growth in the country. 

TikTok positioned in the market as a humorous online spot recorded immense growth during the March Quarter. The social media video creating and sharing app has enjoyed tremendous popularity ever since its merger with Musical.ly. The company looking to attract Australian attention further has set up its new office in Sydney where former Google executive Lee Hunter would be its new General manager.

As people across the world found additional free time during COVID-19 lockdown, many of them utilised it to make funny light-hearted videos. The whimsical appeal of the app and strategy of its parent company ByteDance Limited to dodge grim and solemn issues has helped it avoid off the controversies which often surrounds other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. 

The company riding on the back of immense popularity, ByteDance recorded robust March Quarter with the sources indicating the revenue could reach around US$5.6 billion. At the same time, the mobile-based music app is also seeing surging demand among the US customers.

While buoyant nature of its content draw interest of many people looking to polish their artistic skills or merrily have a good time, the app this time is in the news for all debatable reasons. The Chinese app, which is known for taking down videos with sensitive content, is attracting controversies from many critics who believe that the app aligns the content as per the Chinese government’s interest. 

Many have accused that the Chinese owned app adopts a biased attitude working to affect the image of the US while safeguarding that of China. However, on the other hand, many also believe that the app should not be targeted just because it surfaced social problems prevalent in the US. 

In a series of allegations, the critics cited the augmented portrayal of the American Black Lives Matter’ protest on the Chinese version of the app. Meanwhile, the Chinese company a few months back has suspended the Tiktok account of the US teenager whose posts revolved around the detention of Uyghur Muslims in China. Many opponents have pointed towards the double-standard approach of the company, intensifying the debate on the matter 

Meanwhile, the US-China tension has fuelled another wave of controversy as many experts seem to develop a distrust for some Chinese applications as they fear that it might enhance security and privacy issues for the users. 

Tiktok Security Related concerns

The trade war between the two largest economies – the US and China seem to have taken an aggravated form with an outbreak of coronavirus. US President Donal Trump several times put verbal charges on the Asian country for downplaying information or having a critical role behind the pandemic. While the extent of validity in the US accusations remains an enigma, the growing bilateral tensions between the two countries is massively evident. 

TikTok seems to have been caught up in ferocious whirlwinds of the spat between the two countries. The US Navy and army banned the app from using it on the government issued devices. The application utilises data such as location, and search history, which many fears could be unfairly used by compromising security and privacy. Furthermore, the US Department of Defense appealed its employees to refrain from downloading the TikTok app. 

The US Chief of Naval Operations also expressed his apprehensions for Tiktok through Twitter, asking his fellow sailors to consider social media literacy while indicating that information control is essential for the Chinese government. 

ALSO READ: Why Will Cyber Security Be a Major Issue in the 2020s?

The problem for the video-sharing app seems to have aggravated with the bill (S. 3455) “No TikTok on Government Devices Act”, put forth by Senator Josh Hawley in the senate. The bill not only bans the usage of the Chinese app on the government’s devices but also put it as the national security threat. 

Meanwhile, a second bill (HR 6896) in the House resonates similar concerns by lawmakers on the usage of the app by government officials. Congressman Ken Buck who introduced the bill called the TikTok as “parasitic spyware app” indicating the parent company of the app as per the Chinese law requires to share “whatever information the Chinese Communist Party wants whenever it wants”. He noted that while several federal agencies have already taken several steps, an additional banning through the law would align with the country’s national interest. 

A Controversy on Children’s Privacy

ByteDance’s social app is also amidst another wave of problems as US House Democratic lawmakers asked The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for investigating the issue around TikTok collecting children’s information without parental permission. 

The app is accused of violating the US Children Online Privacy Protection Act as it has collected information of the children under 13 years of age. Meanwhile, many non-governmental organisations complained that the Group had violated FTC agreement as did not delete personal information collected of the children. Notably, the agreement made the social media company pay fine US$ 5.7 million in 2019.

Many NGOs and critics have also raised concerns regarding the method through which the app gains parental consent, highlighting them as inadequate. 

Finding itself in the middle of brimming controversies, Tiktok has appointed Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its new CEO following the appointment of former Google executive Lee Hunter as general manager. TikTok spokesperson also stated that its parent company ByteDance Ltd is not Beijing-based and is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. The move is followed by growing US senators’ allegations regarding the app for breaching US privacy. While the concerns and issues along with TikTok popularity is growing, it would remain noteworthy to see how these strategic steps by the company pan out in the future.


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