Has Tik Tok been unfairly thrown into U.S. lawmakers' firing line?
The Point with Liu Xin
The U.S. government has launched a national security investigation into Chinese-owned app Tik Tok over its acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly, according to a report released by Reuters. The probe will be carried out by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Tik Tok recently released a statement denying the claims that they censor politically sensitive topics and that all data belonging to American users is stored in the U.S. and is subject to U.S. privacy law. The statement read: "Let us be very clear: Tik Tok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China. We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked."
''Tik Tok in the U.S., such as data and the content reviews, are subject to the law in the United States, not subject to the law in China.'' Thomas Luo, CEO, and co-founder of Pingwest said.
However, according to Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer, founder of Grasshopper Strategies, Tik Tok is not being singled out but is merely coming under the same scrutiny as other social media platforms. He said: ''These reassurances are not enough for any large social media platform for the U.S. Congress right now. Tik Tok is joining Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Apple and Google for being under fire for privacy issues. It's not new that this company or any large social media platform would be under review and scrutiny from the U.S. Congress.''
Though Tik Tok's merger with Musical.ly happened two years ago, it is only now that the Committee on Foreign Investment is launching a probe into the deal. "Part of the reason that it wasn't submitted in the past [for review by CFIUS] is that nobody cared. Musical.ly wasn't that dominant of a platform. But in the two years since Musical.ly was bought out for a billion U.S. dollars, that platform has become Tik Tok and now has more than half a billion users.'' Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer.
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly criticized Tik Tok. During a speech at Georgetown University last month, the tech mogul said: ''While our services like WhatsApp are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the U.S.." But Facebook has also come under fire from the U.S. government over privacy concerns and was also involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
U.S. politicians are also voicing their criticism of Tik Tok amid ongoing tensions between China and the United States. After Reuters broke the story of the CFIUS investigation, Marco Rubio tweeted: "Any platform owned by a company in China which collects massive amounts of data on Americans is a potentially serious threat to our country."
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