In a latest development surrounding the ongoing controversy over TikTok, China has vehemently opposed a bill in the US Congress that could potentially lead to the ban of the popular social media app in the United States. The bill, aimed at addressing long-standing safety concerns associated with TikTok, has drawn sharp criticism from Chinese officials, who deem it unjust and an infringement on the app’s operations.

At the heart of the matter lie three primary cybersecurity concerns regarding TikTok, which have fuelled the debate surrounding its usage. Firstly, critics often highlight TikTok’s alleged excessive data collection practices, with reports indicating that the app harvests a significant amount of user data, including location information and device details. While TikTok contends that its data collection practices align with industry standards, concerns persist regarding the extent of data amassed by the platform.

Secondly, apprehensions regarding potential espionage activities orchestrated by the Chinese government through TikTok have further intensified scrutiny. Despite assertions from TikTok asserting its independence and commitment to data privacy, apprehensions persist regarding the app’s ownership by ByteDance, a Beijing-based tech company. Allegations of data access by Beijing-based employees have fuelled suspicions, although TikTok maintains that measures are in place to safeguard user data, including the establishment of data centres in the United States and Europe.

Lastly, fears of TikTok being utilised as a tool for disseminating propaganda or facilitating influence operations have added to the concerns. With comparisons drawn to its Chinese counterpart Douyin, which operates under heavy censorship, questions arise regarding TikTok’s content moderation policies and susceptibility to external manipulation. While studies suggest differences in censorship between TikTok and Douyin, apprehensions persist regarding the potential for TikTok to be exploited for ideological purposes.

Despite these concerns largely revolving around theoretical risks, the possibility of a US ban on TikTok looms large, echoing similar actions taken by India in 2020. The ramifications of such a ban could extend beyond the United States, impacting the platform’s global operations and potentially influencing decisions made by US allies. However, it’s essential to note the absence of reciprocal concerns from China, given its longstanding restrictions on access to US-based social media platforms.

As debates continue to unfold, the future of TikTok in the United States remains uncertain, with stakeholders grappling to balance cybersecurity considerations with the broader implications of regulatory action on a global scale.