TIKTOK has entertained millions during lockdown but now privacy fears have shrouded the app in controversy as the US considers a nation-wide ban.
So will the popular app be banned here in the UK and what do we know about privacy data being passed to the Chinese government?
The popular app – known for its memes, dances and trends – exploded during lockdown.
Could TikTok be banned in the UK?
After US President Donald Trump announced he plans to officially ban TikTok in the US, many fear similar actions could be taken in the UK.
It also follows the news that TikTok recently backed away from making the United Kingdom its global headquarters amid rising tensions between Britain and China.
However, there are no current reports suggesting that the app will be banned in the UK.
One industry expert did say that a ban is "plausible" but "less likely" than in other countries.
Social media consultant Matt Navarra noted: "Just because the US is considering banning TikTok doesn’t mean the UK will follow.
"The concerns held about China and Chinese companies by the US and UK may well be similar, but the way it seems to be approaching them seems to be diverging."
Leading Tories have warned TikTok could be as harmful to Britain as Huawei, the Chinese tech firm which the UK removed from its 5G network.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the service should be banned because of its proximity to “Chinese intelligence services,” The Times reported.
He said: “There are real serious concerns, as big as with Huawei, over the role that they play.”
“TikTok is the product of a company called ByteDance which has roots everywhere at the moment, a bit like Huawei. They’re growing like mad. Everybody is now reviewing the company.”
The UK government is currently examining the role another Chinese company, Huawei, will play in the establishment of 5G networks across the country.
Boris Johnson's government has been under pressure from the US to end the company’s presence in the UK.
Has China banned the app?
TikTok is not accessible in China without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
However, China has its own version of the app named DouYin, which is hugely popular.
DouYin also belongs to parent company ByteDance, who have been careful to distance themselves from the Chinese government.
But the company was rocked by leaked reports published in the Guardian in 2019 that revealed that Beijing was instructing the app's moderators to remove videos mentioning Tiananmen Square or Tibetan Independence.
ByteDance, set up by Chinese tech mogul Zhang Yiming, posted a huge £3billion profit in 2019.
Will TikTok be banned in the US or other countries?
India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps on July 7 in a watershed move by regulators.
The country was TikTok's top market for downloads, according to CNN, and there is little chance of the ban being lifted.
US lawmakers have also raised intelligence, national security, and privacy concerns about the company’s ownership.
On July 31, Trump told reporters: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States".
Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also confirmed that the White House is "looking at" a potential ban on the app.
When asked by Fox News whether he would recommend downloading the app, he said: "Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."
The statement will deeply concern TikTok as the US represents a huge share of their market, and comes amid rising tension between the two superpowers over the coronavirus pandemic.
Mike Pompeo also added that China had become an "evil" harvesting Britons' data.
He said: “It is not possible to have your personal information flow across a Chinese server without the rest of that information ending up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“This is not about any particular company, it is about the obligation to protect the data of American citizens.”
The Australian government is also under pressure to outlaw the popular app amid concerns it poses a serious national security threat.
One unnamed MP in the country told the Herald Sun that the app should be probed to see if it is part of a plot by the Chinese Communist Party to collect data, and claims that many of his fellow politicians agree.
Responding to India's ban, the company's chief executive Kevin Mayer categorically denied that TikTok would ever share data with the Chinese government.
In the letter, seen by Reuters, he said: "I can confirm that the Chinese government has never made a request to us for the TikTok data of Indian users.
"If we do ever receive such a request in the future, we would not comply."
How many people in the UK use TikTok?
According to figures from Campaign, the app has 4.9 million users in the UK.
This could be set to double by next year, reaching a potential 10.1 million people.
India, where the app is now banned, reached 190.6 million downloads in 2019 – more than anywhere else in the world.
There are close to 800 million TikTok users across the globe.
What is Reels by Instagram?
Instagram is providing a potential challenger to TikTok in the form of Reels – a new feature for video content in its app.
The feature allows users to create 15-second clips set to music which can be used in Instagram stories, and is said to be very similar to TikTok.
And the app is currently being tested in India following the TikTok ban, Business Insider reports.
The feature appeared in Brazil in late 2019 and could be expanded into European markets soon.
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