United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that the U.S. is considering a ban on several Chinese social media apps, including TikTok. Pompeo said that the U.S. is “certainly looking at” a ban during an appearance on Fox News last night. “I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at,” said Pompeo.
Talk of rolling back Chinese tech influence has heated up in recent days following India’s decision to ban 59 (mostly Chinese) apps. TikTok – which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance – made India’s ban list. Also banned was WeChat, which is the largest messaging app in China. India called the decision “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order” in a statement. The move is yet another escalation in rising hostilities between China and India, which resulted in deadly border clashes last month.
Australia has also considered a ban on TikTok, citing concerns over data leaks and espionage concerns.
As for the U.S. government, they have raised similar issues about TikTok in the past. It is a bipartisan issue, one which Tom Cotton and Chuck Schumer addressed in a letter last October. Schumer has called for an investigation into the app, calling it, “a potential counter-intelligence threat we cannot ignore”.
A report from The Guardian found that the app censors content based on Chinese Government aims. Leaked documents show that moderators are instructed to censor content that mentions Tiananmen Square or Tibetan independence, among other things.