The struggles that Huawei has had with the U.S. government have been well documented, with allegations of ties to Chinese government agencies leading to pretty severe consequences for the Chinese company—similar accusations were also levelled at ZTE as well.
And now, it looks like American authorities are set to turn their attention to another Chinese-owned company. TikTok, a video-sharing app that has reportedly drawn over 110 million downloads in the U.S., is under scrutiny for alleged censorship protocols, as well as data collection practices.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton wrote a letter this week to the Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to ask authorities to investigate alleged “national security risks” with TikTok. That’s mainly down to a question of whether moderators in the company limit what American users see on the app—and whether the Chinese government has any influence on this censorship.
According to Schumer and Cotton:
“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.”
Another U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, has also called for an investigation into TikTok’s alleged censorship practices and potential national security risks they pose. This follows another report that alleges that TikTok censors videos that have mentions of “Tiananmen Square”, “Tibetan independence”, or “Falun Gong”—all supposedly due to Chinese foreign policy concerns.
TikTok has issued a response of their own, which categorically denies the allegations:
“We believe it is critical to set the record straight on some specific issues. First, let’s talk about data privacy and security. We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore. Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law. “
“Second, in regards to content concerns. Let us be very clear: TikTok 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. Period.”
So that’s that. We’ll have to wait for further developments, and also if the parties concerned present any concrete evidence—none of which we’ve seen so far, it must be said.