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Why is Donald Trump at war with TikTok?

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President Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, is no stranger to controversy. The Trump administration, led by the man himself, has been the subject of never-ending criticism and scrutiny. However, none of that seems to faze the President. From calling for Russian hackers to target a presidential candidate, to imposing a mass ban on Muslim travellers, to calling for a wall to be built on the border with Mexico, the President is confident in his eccentric statements and actions.

The Shifting Battle Lines in Trump Vs China

The latest victims of the Trump Train are Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat. This comes as no surprise since the U.S. has already had an intense trade war with China. It was the world’s biggest economy vs the world’s most developed economy. Truly a battle of titans, which seems to be changing the lines of battle. The President has expressed a desire to “purge” the U.S. of dangerous Chinese apps, including popular apps WeChat and TikTok. Among several reasons the administration has given for this course of action, the most-touted is the fact that both apps pose serious data security risks to American citizens. But is this really the whole truth?

TikTok – The Social Video Sharing App

Data breaches happen all the time, but you can’t really restrict entertainment content to Cox Contour TV. People will continue to turn to video and audio streaming platforms, as well as to social media services like TikTok. The ByteDance-owned app has seen over 175 million downloads in the United States alone. Globally, it has a user base of over 1 billion. A large number of social media influencers have also embraced the app as a new tool to reach out to attract audiences in a unique way. In many ways, TikTok is a reimagining of the popular 00s platform Vine. However, in terms of sheer user volume, TikTok, formerly known as Musically, is already much bigger than Vine ever was.

The Trump Administration’s Beef With TikTok     

According to a new executive order signed by the President himself, the administration is gearing up to take “aggressive action” against the app and its holding company to in the interests of “national security”. According to the order, the app poses a significant data security threat to millions of Americans all over the world.

The order alleges that the app is designed to automatically collect information on its users. The report alleges that the app focuses on gathering data related to network activity, including search history, browsing patterns, and even location information. Of course, protecting user data is something that has recently become a priority for online services. Yet, breaches have emerged consistently on much larger platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Uber. However, the administration seems to have had a more lenient view towards them compared to TikTok, which has not yet had a major data leak.

Another sinister reason the executive order puts forward is what is allegedly done with the user data. The executive order alleges that TikTok hands over the data to the Chinese Communist Party. The CPC then uses the data to allegedly spread disinformation and mistrust concerning the American government. In addition, the President has expressed support for Microsoft acquiring ByteDance’s US operations, provided the government gets a “substantial” part of the sale proceeds.  

But what does TikTok have to say about these accusations?

What TikTok Says  

In response to the new Presidential executive order, a statement released by TikTok expresses shock at the administration’s decision. The company has categorically denied that it shares user information and data with the Chinese government. Of course, that’s not to understate the powerful hold China has over its tech companies. Nobody has forgotten the Huawei debacle, which escalated to the smartphone manufacturer banned in the United States.

TikTok, however, continues to defend its adherence to industry security standards and ethics. The statement cited the fact that the executive order relies on the unsubstantiated findings of “unnamed reports”. It also claims there is no reason to fear the spread of disinformation, as there is no cited evidence to suggest that the app has been used for such. In addition, the statement hinted that the app might sue the United States government for setting a “dangerous precedent” regarding the freedom of expression and trade. It vows to pursue the case in an American court of law, to ensure due process and fair treatment.

Of course, many members of the left-leaning public have a different view of the whole fiasco. The point towards how many users have used the platform to air political and societal views. That includes mocking the President and his policies, as well as the Tulsa rally prank that sabotaged a Trump political rally in a state with huge Republican support. There is a strong opinion that the whole situation is nothing more than President Trump seeking payback.

Of course, you can’t discount the fact that America and China have been fierce rivals, especially in the tech industry. The Tik Tok app has over 80 million American users every day, making videos on things ranging from cooking meals to their experience when they call Cox cable Customer Service. Surely that many users on an app developed by an American firm would be a social media gamechanger. Could this be the beginning of a “tech Cold War” between the two huge countries? What do you think?   

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