Former U.S. president Donald Trump failed to ban popular Chinese social media and entertainment app Tik-tok, and now it would seem the app has banned him, instead, while India on the other hand has been more successful in its war against TikTok, banning it along with 58 other Chinese apps.
This week, India moved to extend its June ban on Chinese apps permanently after they failed to satisfy the government’s requirements related to compliance and privacy.
Indian regulators claim that the apps, Including Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and Alibaba’s UC Browser, pose a "threat to sovereignty and integrity”, while an ongoing border dispute between two countries is suspected to be the main motivation.
Neither India nor the United States are alone in their fears.
Last year, the European Union launched a probe after concerns were expressed over the company's use of minors' personal information.
Tok-tok has also been controversial in Pakistan and Indonesia, both of which have banned the app for short periods of time. Pakistan’s ban was on grounds of “immoral” videos, while Indonesia banned Tik-tok after the app censored content critical of China.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the government has ordered Tik-tok to remove videos critical of the government and demonstrating support for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who returned to the country after seeking asylum in Germany following an attempted poisoning by the Russian government in August.
Videos posted with hashtags supporting Navalny have gained more than 50 million combined views.
In the U.S., where the app has more than 100 million users, the former Trump administration labeled TikTok a security threat and tried to ban the service last year. In July, Trump threatened to ban the app from operating in the U.S. citing national security concerns.
In August, Trump issued an executive order that would ban TikTok in the U.S. unless its operations are sold to another company by Sept. 20th.
The executive order cited national security concerns that the Chinese government could use data gathered from TikTok to "track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage”. TikTok challenged the ban as unconstitutional and a violation of due process.
In September, a U.S. Judge chose to block Trump's efforts to stop domestic users from downloading TikTok.
According to Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Trump breached his emergency economic powers when he pushed for the app's removal.
The process of banning the app stalled in the last two months as Trump was focused on fighting his election loss. The deadline for the app sale passed, with no action taken.
While Trump failed to ban it, TikTok banned him, much as the majority of mainstream social media did.
Earlier this month, the app removed videos of Trump’s speeches to supporters around the Capitol riots. Also, all content deemed misinformation on the 2020 election results has also been taken down.
It is still unknown whether the Biden administration will follow through on its predecessors’ actions regarding the popular app. For his first 100 days in office plan, President Joe Biden is focusing on curbing the pandemic and the economic recovery, and he has had little to say so far about Chinese TikTok.
Without naming the app, the Biden administration signaled earlier this week that it would continue to "hold China accountable" on technology-related concerns.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden wants to approach relations with Beijing with “patience”.
“The president’s view is we need to play a better defense, which must include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and making sure that American technologies aren’t facilitating China’s military build up,” Psaki added.
Despite worldwide scrutiny of TikTok, its parent company, ByteDance, more than doubled its 2020 revenue to about $37 billion. The company also increased its operating profit. The volume of the latter amounted to $ 7 billion, which is $ 3 billion more than last year.
By Fred Dunkley