TikTok has been getting hate for a long time now, and now the governments have started to see it as a grave security threat. The Indian government recently banned TikTok, saying that it was a spy app snooping on the people, collecting their data, and selling it to the Chinese government.
Now the American government of Donald Trump has jumped on the same bandwagon and has declared TikTok should be banned.
But why are these governments so threatened by TikTok and no other Chinese app, and why are they not concerned about Chinese electronics, and the Chinese investment in their national apps?
Is there something particular about TikTok that is particularly threatening to Donald Trump and Narendra Modi?
TikTokers literally “pwned” Trump recently and he was pissed off
TikTok is a platform for short videos, where most people share viral memes, dance trends, catchy songs, and quite recently – it was also the hub of political satire and activism and social awareness.
Recently it were the TikTokers who hijacked the tickets for Trump’s Tulsa rally and while he thought that 100,000 people would be showing up to see him – only 6,200 arrived. Trump returned from the rally with a sullen face and broken spirit. We could tell that he was thinking about how to take TikTok down.
So he did what the Indian government had done, accused TikTok of being an app dangerous to national security.
Cyber experts say TikTok is completely useless in gathering any critical data
TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and the government says that the app collects data that will be shared with the Chinese government. TikTok has denied these claims, and said they “never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
TikTok also said they have an American CEO and the user data of American people is stored in US servers which are outside the jurisdiction of Chinese law.
Actual cybersecurity experts have said that the danger from TikTok is largely hypothetical. Other experts have said that even if the app could collect data of the users, that data won’t be any use to anyone and the data couldn’t cause any threat to national security.
TikTok does gather geolocation information, IP addresses, device identifiers, and in-app messages. But this kind of data is collected by literally every app related to social media, online shopping, food delivery, travel, music, and so on. TikTok is not collecting any unique data.
TikTok’s userbase is a predominantly younger audience, and their locations and conversations cannot be used to plan an attack.
If there was an app that could collect data from government officials, security forces and so on – then it would have been a threat. But government officials and security forces already use a lot of apps, many of them Chinese – so why aren’t those apps getting banned?
So why do the upper-class people and the governments hate TikTok equally?
The truth lies in the content of TikTok. Till now, the content creation was done on YouTube and Instagram and these are the platforms that were accessible only to the elites. Making content on YouTube requires a lot of equipment; while getting popular among the urban crowds of Instagram is possible only if you also have the aesthetics to appeal to them.
TikTok offered an alternative platform where people just needed a smartphone and they could make the content they wanted. Not only this democratized content creation by making it accessible to the masses, TikTok made it possible for common people with no resources and no privileges to showcase their talents and become successful.
On the other hand, the short video format of TikTok allowed these same common people to share their opinions and voices in an effective and share-able way.
Same as TikTokers took down Trump’s rally in Tulsa, they were threatening the content hegemony of the upper class in India – and so the Indian elites ran a campaign against TikTok for quite long, mass-rated the app to 1-star, and eventually the government which works as a puppet of the upper class – banned the app by making the excuse of national security.
Featured Image Courtesy: Medium