U.S. government launches national security investigation into TikTok: reports
Updated 23:00, 17-Nov-2019
Giles Gibson

TikTok takes you into a world of cute dogs, karaoke and weird challenges. But, according to reports, the U.S. Treasury's Committee on Foreign Investment is now investigating the video-sharing platform as a potential national security risk, citing allegations of censorship on politically sensitive content. There are also questions over how it stores personal data. 

Chinese firm ByteDance bought the app "Musical.ly" in 2017, eventually turning it into the teenage sensation known as TikTok.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently tweeted out his concerns about TikTok, claiming the company must "turn over data" to the Chinese government if asked.

Chuck Schumer, top Democrat in the Senate, also recently wrote a letter to the Pentagon, urging the Secretary of the Army to 'assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms.'

A man walks past a TikTok banner in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, October 18, 2019. /VCG Photo

A man walks past a TikTok banner in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, October 18, 2019. /VCG Photo

In a statement last month, TikTok said: "Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law...we have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked."

The committee is reportedly in talks with TikTok about how to maintain its assets in the United States.

"An investigation doesn't have to come down as a complete yes or a complete no. It can come down somewhere in the middle and CFIUS - the body which is doing the investigation - can ask the company to make some particular mitigation measures so that business continues but there are means to protect that data from getting abused," said Sourabh Gupta from the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington. 

Whatever happens with the investigation, there's no guarantee TikTok will keep growing. Earlier this year, the company said it had 26.5 million monthly active users just in the United States.

Another video-sharing platform, Vine, was shut down by its owner Twitter after its popularity plunged and it dropped out of Apple's top 100 free apps.