As some U.S. lawmakers push for a ban on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok over national security concerns, CEO Shou Zi Chew has called this a “pivotal moment” for the company. Chew revealed that TikTok now has over 150 million active monthly U.S. users, almost half of the country’s population, and up from 100 million users in 2020. The CEO will testify on Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the app’s practices, while some politicians are already talking about banning TikTok.
Lawmakers Fear Data Security Risks
Critics of TikTok fear that the app, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, could pass on U.S. user data to China’s government. TikTok, however, denies the spying allegations. The Biden administration recently demanded that ByteDance divest its stake in the app, or it could face a U.S. ban. TikTok’s critics have called for “Big Tech regulation” that addresses all social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, instead of singling out TikTok. Meanwhile, Chew has asked users to comment on what they love about the app, and thousands have responded in support.
Businesses and Creators on TikTok
TikTok is also a popular platform for businesses, with five million U.S. businesses using the app to reach customers. On Wednesday, TikTok creators and New York Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat, will hold a press conference to oppose a ban on the app. Bowman has described the push to ban TikTok as “fear-mongering,” stating that it sends a message to younger voters that their opinions do not matter.
TikTok’s Security Efforts
TikTok has stated that it has spent more than $1.5 billion on data security efforts, including updating its community use guidelines and securing the data of U.S. users. The company has started deleting U.S. user-protected data in data centres in Virginia and Singapore and routing new U.S. data to the Oracle Cloud. The company claims that divestment would not solve the problem of protecting national security, and a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.
Growing Support for a Ban
Despite the support TikTok has garnered from its users and lawmakers, some officials remain determined to ban the app. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and six U.S. senators have backed bipartisan legislation to give President Biden new powers to ban TikTok. The company’s fate remains uncertain as it tries to prove its commitment to data security while keeping its large user base engaged.