TikTok claims it is American-run after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the Chinese-owned social media app could possibly be banned.
Pompeo, in an interview on Fox News, revealed that the Trump administration was “looking at” a ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps.
TikTok is owned by a Beijing based start-up called ByteDance and has previously been scrutinised as a potential threat to national security.
Pompeo said that the US government is taking this scrutiny “very seriously”. He added that users should only download the app “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party."
A TikTok spokesperson is meanwhile quoted: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US."
Kevin Mayer left his position as Disney’s head of streaming back in May to become chief executive at TikTok and chief operating officer of ByteDance.
"We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users,” TikTok said. “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."
Fast-growing social media app
The social media platform is estimated to have 800mln active monthly users, most of which from a younger typical demographic compared to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The app itself is estimated to have been downloaded around 1.9bn times. It was the fastest-growing on Google Play, according to 2019 statistics, and around 41% of its users are aged between 16 and 24.
Last year, an estimated 170mln Americans used the app and the largest user base came from India, where some 600mln people have the app.
Scrutiny is building internationally as well as in the United States. Tik Tok is among ‘foreign’ apps banned by the Indian authorities last week amid complaints highlighted by the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology regarding the misuse and transmission of user data by some mobile apps to servers outside India.
India last week claimed data was being mined and profiled by “elements hostile to national security and defence of India”.
TikTok was on a list of 59 apps which are subject to the ban. China was not specifically referenced in name by the Indian authorities though prominent Chinese apps are on the list – others include the Clash of Kings mobile video game, WeChat, Weibo and CamScanner.
ByteDance, in response, noted that it has close to 2,000 employees in India and said it was committed to demonstrate its dedication to user security and our commitment to India overall.
In 2019, Tik Tok was banned briefly in India amid concerns connected to sexual predators, pornography and cyberbullying.
Hong Kong exit
Elsewhere, today TikTok voluntarily withdrew is app from Hong Kong as a new national security law gave more power to the mainland Chinese government.
TikTok said it made the decision “in light of recent events”.
It follows similar moves by Google, Facebook, and Twitter which have ceased processing government requests in Hong Kong for user data.
ByteDance is said to be keen to maintain distance between TikTok and the Chinese version of the app, called Douyin, and it has stated publicly that it does not share date with the Chinese government.