President Trump’s impending ban on TikTok may just be the beginning of the popular video app’s headaches as a growing number of countries suspect its ties to China.
US ally Australia is reportedly looking at Beijing-based TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to see if it poses a threat to the security of the country’s 25 million citizens, and the Prime Minister. Scott Morrison said the government was looking at the relationship “very closely.”
India, where TikTok was once massively popular with young people in its population, banned the app in June amid a military showdown between the two countries. India’s Ministry of Information Technology issued a statement saying it had received reports that TikTok and other Chinese applications were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting user data.”
Meanwhile, neighboring Pakistan, in late July, warned TikTok that it could not continue to host “immoral, obscene and vulgar content,” and gave the company a “final warning” to “implement a comprehensive mechanism” to moderate its content.
Last week, the government of Japan began studying the possibility of banning TikTok from its shores due to concerns that Beijing will use the data it collects.
TikTok has said it has never provided user data to China and would not do so if asked, saying in a statement that it “has no higher priority than promoting a secure app experience that protects the privacy of our users.”
But TikTok’s biggest problem remains in the United States, where Trump has told the company that it must reach an agreement to at least sell its US business to “a very American company” by Sept. 15 or it will be banned.
Trump told reporters at the White House this week that he is personally involved in brokering a possible deal with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming told employees in an email that a forced sale is “unreasonable” and said the United States wants TikTok to fail.
“A sale is not their goal, not even what they want,” he wrote. “Their real goal is to achieve a complete ban.”