US may ban TikTok- should other countries be concerned too?

The Chinese app was banned from government devices in the UK last year. But could safety concerns drive the UK in the same direction as the US?

TikTok could face a total ban in the United States if ByteDance doesn’t sell it off.

Last week, the United States lawmakers passed a bill pushing TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to sell the social media platform or face being banned in the US.

This development is due to increasing safety concerns over the privacy of American data held by TikTok, with the bill demanding ByteDance sell their majority stake in 165 days. However, the bill has yet to reach the Senate and passing the bill in full could take many months according to NBC News.

The UK government banned the use of TikTok on government devices in 2023 over similar privacy concerns. However, it has not yet followed the US in proposing a possible ban. TikTok was already fined £12.7 million by the Information Commissioners Office for allowing underage users on the app and misusing their data. UK users are still worried about how their data is used.

“It’s like I am back in 2020 with TikTok safety issues making headlines again and the US potentially banning it. I think the UK might take a similar step if the row goes on,” said Rowan Lee, a 19-year-old avid user from Newport. 

The UK banned TikTok from government devices over safety concerns.

TikTok has a huge fanbase in the UK with 28% of 13-17 year-olds and 41% of 18-24 year-olds using it extensively to view and create video material. Moreover, Wales is the biggest consumer of the social media platform in the UK with about 79% of 15-24 year-olds online having accounts and spending over an hour on TikTok everyday according to an Ofcom report from 2022.

The fight for TikTok is mainly a result of the US-China battle with the States’ concerns over foreign influences and ByteDance possibly being controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. They fear that the tech giant shares sensitive user data with the government of China.

People react to the US bill pushing ByteDance to sell TikTok.

Despite TikTok CEO Shou Chew assuring that ByteDance is ‘a private company’ and has no connection to the Chinese government, the US is determined to place the ban if TikTok is not sold to an American company. 

“This is clearly more of a political move rising from US-China tensions than legitimate privacy concerns. India made a similar move due to extreme political tension with China in 2020,” said Kanika, 23, a student in International Relations at Cardiff University.

This is not the first time TikTok has caused controversy.India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Shein, CamScanner and others over the political conflict resulting from the dispute on the Indo-China border in 2020. It is set to ban 54 more apps this year citing ‘safety concerns’. 

“I could not use TikTok much in India and started using it after coming to the UK. I understand the wide popularity in Wales with so many British TikTokers actively posting on the platform. It is one of the entertaining social media platforms,” said Kanika.

Similar to the UK, countries such as France and the Netherlands had banned the installation of TikTok or any other app with ‘security concerns’ on official devices. 

“I hope there is no such official TikTok ban in the UK. I am practically on the app all day for entertaining videos, its even better than Instagram reels,” said an undergrad student at Cardiff University. “I even use to search things up more than search engines like Google itself. 

Check out the Top 5 TikTok influencers from Wales.