RECAP — Will TikTok be banned?

Myah Elliott
Story by Myah Elliott and CBC Kids News • 2020-07-10 17:15

Technology apps can be ‘very political,’ says expert

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

It seems like the clock might be running out of time for TikTok.

That’s because the app could be banned in the U.S.

Before you freak out, there are a lot of details to RECAP here, so hang tight.

What’s happening?

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (the American head of foreign affairs) made statements this week saying they were “looking at” banning TikTok over security concerns.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that officials at Amazon told employees they must delete TikTok citing “security risks.”

If the United States bans TikTok all together, it wouldn’t be the first country to do so.

India banned TikTok and 59 other Chinese-based apps last month in response to ongoing conflict between the two countries.

Why are countries mad at TikTok?

Well, it’s complicated and involves both politics and security concerns.

TikTok, one of the most popular apps in the world, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.

According to social media marketing agency Wallaroo Media, TikTok has been downloaded more than 165 million times in the U.S. (Image credit: Manjunath Kiran/ Getty Images)

Back in October 2019, U.S. authorities were worried about how TikTok was using the information it gathered on its users (such as email addresses, photos and locations.)

They were concerned that ByteDance shared this information with the Chinese government.

And since China and the U.S. don’t always get along, American authorities were worried this information could be used against them by China.

This is something TikTok flatly denies.

But Pompeo isn’t convinced.

When asked by Fox News if people should download the app, he replied, “only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Image credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, Andrew Harnik/Getty Images, Graphic design Allison Cake/CBC) 

For Trump, it might be about payback.

In an interview with journalist Greta Van Susteren, which is scheduled to air Sunday on a program called Full Court Press, Trump suggested that banning the app might happen in retaliation for how China handled its response to the coronavirus.

Within hours, #TikTokBan was trending on Twitter.

#TikTokBan reaction was swift

Not the first time Trump in trouble with TikTokers

In June, the app was used to prank the organizers of a Trump rally in Tulsa, Okla.

A Trump supporter sits alone at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. The Trump campaign claimed to have more than one million people wanting tickets. Turnout was said to be lower than expected. (Image Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

TikTokers and K-pop fans registered to attend, then didn’t show up.

“Technology can be very political,” said cybersecurity and tech expert Ritesh Kotak.

“Mainly young people mobilize online on this platform,” he said in an interview with CBC Kids News.

This kind of mobilization happened again when Trump suggested an outright ban.

As an act of retaliation, some TikTokers have started to leave negative reviews and comments on the official Official Trump 2020 app in the Apple store, with the hopes that one-star reviews would cause the app to get deleted.

TikTok’s response

In an email to CBC Kids News, a spokesperson for TikTok said, “user security is of the utmost importance to TikTok. We are fully committed to respecting the privacy of our users.”

He added that they were not aware of the Amazon ban until it happened, and while they don’t understand the company’s concerns, they are open to discussing them.

If the U.S. bans TikTok, what does it mean for Canada?

Sui Sui, a professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University who specializes in trade relations between the U.S., Canada and China, said a TikTok ban south of the border would be largely symbolic.

But it could still affect Canadians who use the app. 

Since Canada and the U.S. are friends, Sui said, Canada often follows what the Americans do, which means Canada could impose a similar ban.

“However Canada has its own political identity,” she said. “Our decision should be based on facts and hard evidence.”

Sui Sui, left, specializes in trade relations between Canada, the U.S. and China. Ritesh Kotak is a tech and cybersecurity expert who has worked for police forces and Mircrosoft. (Images submitted by: Sui Sui and Ritesh Kotak, Graphic design Allison Cake/CBC)

The question remains, can TikTok survive without American users?

Both Sui and Kotak agree, even if TikTok loses steam, other apps are likely to pop up in its place.

Bigger picture concerns

For Kotak, a TikTok ban only addresses one app, in a large web of apps that gather personal information.

He warns that the information those apps collect can be combined to build a profile of you.

That profile can then be sold to companies or even weaponized politically, he said.

For young people, both Sui and Kotak encourage knowing the power of what you share online, demanding transparency and to think twice about posting personal information on any app.

“Think before you click and understand that everything you're posting is permanent,” he said.

Even if TikTok is banned, “there is no such thing as delete in the online world,” Kotak said.

Be sure to check out this week's episode of RECAP here:


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About the Contributor

Myah Elliott
Myah Elliott
Myah Elliott is the host of RECAP, a weekly video roundup of buzzed-about news and pop culture that is powered by CBC Kids News. She’s one of the biggest movie fans you’ll ever meet and she also loves music. You won’t catch Myah relaxing too often because she’s on a gap year and fills her time with a part-time job, thrifting, TikToking and learning all she can about marketing and social media. Episodes of #CBCRECAP are uploaded right here every Friday and are also on CBC TV and CBC Gem on Saturdays.

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