The Chinese video app TikTok is yet once again under the scrutiny of people as the executives from TikTok declines to testify about their ties with China to the US congress.
The US is holding a congressional hearing on Tuesday intending to explore the privacy and security concerns posed by the social media platform as well as their ties with Beijing. With widespread influence, TikTok’s been under the suspicion that they are filtering their content while some other privacy protection practices have emerged, leading to potential security risks.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese based company ByteDance and the way they are handling controversial political content and their approach to privacy are making the Congressional lawmakers concerned. The company is being accused of censoring content at the request of the Chinese government conforming with the government’s strict censorship demands and risking the users’ data.
Denying all the claims, TikTok has maintained that they never once removed any content on the request of the Chinese government, thus not subjecting to Beijing’s surveillance laws. They have also claimed that the users’ data is stored locally, meaning the US users’ data is stored in the United States.
The Republican John Hawley organized the hearing on Tuesday while the TikTok’s decision to not participate in the congressional conference came just a day after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US opened an investigation against the company’s acquisition of Musical.ly back in 2017 for potential security threats. Senator Marco Rubio requested the investigation last month sporting his concerns for the censorship rules.
Recently, Hawley also criticized Apple for its business in China, and now it has been reported that Apple has also declined to attend the hearing. Not only Hawley but US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Cotton have also expressed their concerns for the potential national risks posed by TikTok and have requested the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Macguire for a separate official investigation.
A letter by the two senators to Macquire points out that, according to the Sensor Towers, the number of downloads of TikTok has crossed 120 million, making the app a big counter-intelligence threat. Also, according to the TikTok’s censorship guidelines, a video can be removed if deemed politically sensitive by the Chinese government.
The growing popularity of TikTok is making matters worse for other companies as well as the American government. Over the past 12 months, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 750 million times while Facebook has been downloaded only 715 million times, Instagram 450 million times, YouTube 300 million times, and Snacpchat 275 million times during the same duration of time. Social media giants are either launching or working on their versions of TikToks. Facebook launched its version by the name of Lasso late last year. The app was downloaded fewer than 500,000 times, mostly in Mexico.
YouTube is also working on introducing the software into its app, similar to TikTok. The time for TikTok may be very near as apart from all the acquisitions, in its lifetime TikTok has seen a global user-download fall for the first time in two years with a 4 percent decline in the total downloads in the past months.