TikTok is the popular mobile app of the moment, one often used by teenagers to make funny musical videos, while it’s also sometimes used to make political statements. But now, the U.S. Secretary of State is threatening to ban the app, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, in the United States.
Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show on Monday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that such a ban is under consideration.
Following news that India has banned the app and Australia is considering following suit, Ingraham asked Pompeo, “shouldn’t we be considering, right now, tonight, a ban on Chinese social media apps, especially Tiktok?”
“We’re taking this very seriously, we’re certainly looking at it. We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time, whether it’s having Huawei technology in your infrastructure, we’re gone all over the world and we’re making real progress getting that out.”
“With the respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you, the United States will get this one right, too,” before cautioning that he didn’t want to get out in front of the president.
When the tech site Gizmodo reached out for comment, a spokesperson denied that TikTok had ever provided user data to the Chinese government. It’s not clear if the oft-stated accusation that China uses TikTok to spy on citizens is true, but the hacker collective Anonymous alleged last week that the app is “essentially malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation.”
The story came on the same day that TikTok announced it was pulling out of Hong Kong, following China‘s recent crackdown on that territory.
It’s worth pointing out that President Trump and members of his administration have frequently used “we’re looking at that” or “we’ll look at it,” as Pompeo did in the interview, as a rhetorical dodge for questions that they weren’t expecting. And also, TikTok is so popular among younger Americans that a ban of it may end up causing political problems for an administration, four months ahead of the next election.
One such teenager, the 15-year-old daughter of White House aide Kellyanne Conway, has made news in recent weeks for using TikTok to slam President Trump, although her account was taken private over the weekend.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
Image: Fox News Screenshot.