Geopolitics will determine the future of TikTok, since the social network could be banned in the United States if its managers fail to demonstrate that the Chinese government does not use the platform to spy on and impose opinion matrices in its adversary country.
The fastest growing social network in recent years, TikTok, finds itself in the eye of the hurricane as it faces a serious possibility of being banned in the United States, since Washington believes that the platform —owned by a Chinese company— maintains links with the government of China and is used to spy on the American population.
TikTok has become an internet phenomenon and despite existing since 2016, its use has spread in the last three years. The statistics indicate that it is, by far, the network with the most average hours of use and has such a reach capacity and an algorithm that is so personalized that it worries political actors in the United States.
This Thursday, March 23, the executive director of the company, Shou Zi Chew, was summoned before the United States Congress, where he had to answer questions before Republican and Democratic congressmen who promote a bill that would prevent the use of TikTok in the territory US.
The congressmen argue that TikTok, despite its international dimension, is linked to the Chinese business group ByteDance, which would have direct ties to the Xi Jinping administration. Therefore, they propose that TikTok be sold and disassociated from the Chinese company to mitigate the risk of possible espionage.
During the interpellation, Chew denied any accusation that linked the application to possible espionage activities and guaranteed that the Chinese government does not have its hands in the platform, as it is owned by a Chinese company.
ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government and is a private company. We believe that what is needed are clear and transparent rules that apply broadly to all technology companies. Ownership is not the basis for addressing these concerns,” Chew responded in his bid to avoid a ban on US soil that would leave the app without 150 million monthly users.
The user base, mostly young, is one of the elements that causes the most concern in Congress. The chair of the committee driving the bill, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, insists that the app should be banned.
“The Chinese Communist Party can collect confidential information and control what we ultimately see, hear and believe,” the legislator reasoned.
*Read also: TikTok, a Chinese app designed to dumb down Westerners?
Faced with the accusations, China did not remain silent and has shown its support for TikTok on several occasions. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce assured Chew before the hearing that the government would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, and that any operation would require authorization from the Chinese authorities.
“Forcing the sale of TikTok will seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States,” said ministry spokeswoman Shu Jueting.
For its part, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the United States to “stop unjustified attacks” against the platform and accused Washington of discriminating against foreign groups that were successful in the country.
“Data security issues should not be used as a tool for some countries to broaden the concept of national security, abuse state power and unreasonably suppress other countries’ companies,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
*With information from swissinfo and AFP
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