TikTok in the United States: 5 questions on the controversy
The origins of the controversy
Why does Donald Trump want to ban TikTok in the United States?
TikTok is the international version of Douyin, a Chinese application launched in 2016 and the result of a merger with the Musical.ly application in 2018. TikTok is now headquartered in California and its CEO is none other than Kevin Mayer, former head of the Disney+ streaming platform.
But TikTok is still a subsidiary of the Chinese company ByteDance. The suspicions related to the security of the social network are then part of a complex context:
- Complaint by the FTC – Federal Trade Commission – regarding the illegal collection of data from users under the age of 13,
- Banned in India last June for cybersecurity reasons,
- Call for American elected officials to ban enforcement,
- Escalation of tensions between the USA and China,
- Increasing politicization of social networking and the upcoming American elections.
Is this ban really possible?
It isn’t so simple to prohibit an application across an entire territory. But the American administration has many tools at its disposal to limit TikTok’s commercial links with American companies, as we have already seen with the Huawei case. This complex issue is well documented in this legal debate from the blog Lawfare.
Apple and Google, for example, may no longer offer TikTok in their application stores. But users would still find roundabout ways to get to the network.
Access to the servers would then have to be denied, but again, workarounds exist and social network users are already talking about them.
Should we be wary of the Chinese application?
In this Medium article by French cybersecurity researcher Baptiste Robert, it is explained in particular that the application captures a lot of data, certainly, but no more than other social networks. As far as problems related to minors are concerned, the social network has already taken various measures.
At the heart of the controversy, TikTok also claims that the application’s data is not shared with China and that its servers are located in the United States and Singapore. While many accusations target TikTok, there is no concrete evidence of the app’s dangers in terms of cybersecurity at the moment.
Redemption or prohibition of TikTok? Several hypotheses
What's the status of the negotiations?
Donald Trump’s announcements are clear: if no repurchase solution is found before September 15, the application will be prohibited.
Moreover, this takeover must also benefit the US Treasury, a rather unprecedented situation, and a criticized requirement. Microsoft has stated in a press release that it wants to find a buyout solution that allows secure use of the app and a benefit for the U.S. Treasury, thus going in the direction of Donald Trump’s requirements.
Negotiations are still ongoing.
What consequences can we imagine for TikTok in the USA as well as in France?
It is not yet known what potential consequences the takeover or ban could actually have, particularly in France. For its part, TikTok is proposing a partial takeover of the application business in four countries: the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
An article by Forbes details various plausible hypotheses. Microsoft could, for example, have a simple right of access to TikTok without altering its development. Another much more radical possibility: a new version intended for the four countries mentioned above, with French users no longer having access to the contents of American influencers.
@ch1ppychipPlease Mr. Cheeto Man? ##fyp ##trump♬ original sound – sorryidonthaveanychange
For its part, Facebook took the opportunity to launch its new Reels feature on Instagram, created to compete with the Chinese application. But the fate of TikTok is far from being sealed…