Is Tiktok a threat to national security?

By Nathaly Sierra

TikTok is a popular entertainment app available on a variety of cell phones.  | Photo courtesy of pexels.com

DCCC business administration major Jorge Solis, 25, is one of the many users of the popular social media app, Tiktok. 

“I started using Tiktok since it came out in 2017,” Solis said.

According to Solis, the most interesting thing about Tiktok is viewing people’s creativity and learning about new things. “There is so much content that it is difficult to stop watching it for hours,” he added. 

On Aug. 6, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order addressing concerns over Americans’ security while using Tiktok. The conflict between the app and the U.S. government made headlines and raised concern for many users. 

Solis also heard about the Trump Administration’s attempts to close the app and at the beginning saw it as an issue that was “not as important as other problems the country is facing at the time.” 

Solis also wonders if the Trump administration had real reasons to take action against the popular platform. 

Distribution of Tiktok users in the United States as of June 2020, by age group. | Courtesy of NewMediaBusinessBlog.org

Tiktok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, and it became available for U.S. users in 2017. According to the Trump Administration’s executive order, the app has been downloaded more than 175 million times in the United States.  

The federal government worries that the Chinese government uses Tiktok to collect private information from users, such as network activity, location data, browsing, and search histories. Trump’s executive order expresses significant concern that the Chinese government is spying on federal employees, gathering personal information for blackmail, and conducting corporate espionage. 

Other countries, such as India, have banned Tiktok since June 2020, because of conflicts between the two governments. 

According to the FBI, the Chinese government is a threat to the United States’ security because the Chinese Communist Party has been seeking to influence the public and lawmakers.

 “The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China,” FBI director Christopher Wray states on the FBI’s official website. 

The Cambridge Law Journal reported that the Commerce Department scheduled Tiktok’s app store ban on Sept. 20, 2020. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) delayed the process until Nov.12, 2020, looking to resolve the American government’s concerns. 

There are no updates on the status of the process other than the negotiations between ByteDance and American corporations, such as Microsoft, Oracle, etc., to sell the social media platform. 

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has put on hold any plans to authorize the sale of TikTok until it can more closely examine the Trump administration’s claims. 

According to an article written by the Saint Louis University School of Law, Trump claimed that because the government is making the purchase of Tiktok possible to an American company, the U.S. Treasury should, Trump said, “get a very large percentage of that price. Because we are making it possible.” 

The demand for payments from the Trump administration gives some TikTok users the impression that the Trump administration’s concerns were not really about Americans’ security. 

An executive order targeting the popular video-sharing app TikTok made doing business with its Chinese parent company, Bytedance, illegal starting on September 20, 2020. | (Dreamstime/TNS)

Furthermore, although the U.S. government claimed to have concerns about the safety of millions of Americans’ information, the Trump administration’s executive order failed to state concrete evidence to prove Tiktok was sharing personal information of his users with the Chinese Government. 

Tiktok responded, claiming that the Trump administration “violated the Fifth Amendment by banning Tiktok with no notice or opportunity to be heard.”  

Tiktok creators and also expressed their opinion on the matter, such as Leo Scheck, who has 89.8 thousand followers on TikTok and uses it to discuss his political views. 

Scheck believes Trump decided to ban Tiktok after some users organized and successfully boycotted his rally in Oklahoma in June 2020. 

“This is about a fragile president who can’t handle criticism, who is attempting to silence dissent on an app that happens to be foreign,” Scheck said. 

Solis believes the app’s ban without concrete evidence makes no sense and claims it is a waste of time. “If it was so important and urgent, why to this date, there has been no change?” he asked, adding that he enjoys it on a nightly basis for an hour or two. 

“I think banning the app will mean some people won’t be able to express their creativity and thoughts freely, which is one of the main reasons why Tiktok is so famous,” Solis said. 

Contact Nathaly Sierra at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu.

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