US President Donald Trump said on Friday evening that he will ban TikTok in the US. It started a deluge of responses from the creators and users of the platform. And it sparked a surge in downloads of rival short-form video apps.
The potential US ban drove TikTok US general manager Vanessa Pappas to post a video message on their official account.
TikTok issued an official response as well:
“These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic. We’ve hired nearly 1,000 people to our US team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US. Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”
It aligns with the firm’s push to highlight its benefit to the US economy. It offers jobs at a time when layoffs are rampant due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Will it fall on deaf ears? Will the US government turn a blind eye to ensure the data security and privacy of Americans?
The Trump administration has said repeatedly its concern about espionage by the Chinese government. They want payback for the Asian country’s part in the COVID-19 outbreak as well.
The need for assurance
TikTok is growing fast and creating a cultural impact. And the most important thing from its statement is that “TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access.”
Under China’s cybersecurity laws, their government can request any Chinese-owned company to surrender internal data for the benefit of the republic.
It would have been better if TikTok said something along the lines of “TikTok user data cannot be accessed by the Chinese Government.”
Without any assurance, TikTok’s future in the US gets dimmer by the second. It is now under duress to detach its US operations from its Beijing-based owner ByteDance.
After hearing Trump’s threat, TikTok reportedly wants to comply. The Trump administration has yet to comment if it will allow the app to keep running in the US or enforce the ban.
Trump said earlier this month that he was considering a US ban to punish China for the spread of COVID-19.
“[TikTok is] a big business. Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” said Trump at the time.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added that any move to ban TikTok was “to deny the Chinese Communist Party access to the private information that belongs to Americans”.
Will TikTok never set foot on US shores again?
If a US ban pushes through, other governments may follow suit.