The demand follows growing concerns about the Chinese-owned app, with the video sharing app already banned from US federal government devices, along with those in more than half of US states …
TikTok is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the app has come under fire on so many fronts, that it’s hard to succinctly summarize them – but here’s our best attempt …
Things date back to the previous presidency, with an executive order banning US companies from doing business with the company, then another requiring the app to be sold to a US company or be banned. The deadline for this quietly lapsed, and President Biden later rescinded the order.
But the app came under fresh scrutiny after overtaking Facebook to become the most-downloaded app back in 2020, with teenagers the main user-base. It wasn’t long before it was accused of having inadequate privacy protection for teenage users, and was forced to make changes.
Next up was failing to properly fact-check user-posted content. Ripping off kids, with in-app currency. Unauthorized use of personal data. Failing to prevent bullying. Trying to bypass App Tracking Transparency rules. Damaging the self-esteem of teenage girls. Taking users down dangerous rabbit holes. Showing irresponsible mental health advice videos. Facilitating drug deals. Enabling grooming by child abusers. Being used for spying by the Chinese government.
Did I forget anything? Oh yeah: encouraging dangerous stunts that kill children. I knew there was something else.
Remove TikTok from app stores, says senator
It is cybersecurity concerns that have received the most attention, though: fears about the personal data of US citizens ending up in the hands of the Chinese government. This has already led the app to be banned from federal government devices, with more than half of US states imposing equivalent rules for their devices.
But CNN reports that one senator wants to take things further.
A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over concerns about national security, in the latest indication of mounting scrutiny on the short-form video app from members of Congress.
In a letter sent to the two tech giants on Thursday, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet calls TikTok “an unacceptable threat to the national security of the United States.”
Beyond data leaks, Bennet also sees darker possibilities.
“We should accept the very real possibility that [China] could compel TikTok, via ByteDance, to use its influence to advance Chinese government interests,” Bennet wrote, “for example, by tweaking its algorithm to present Americans content to undermine U.S. democratic institutions or muffle criticisms” of China’s handling of Hong Kong, Taiwan or ethnic minorities.
It’s not the first time Apple and Google have been asked to remove TikTok from their app stores: the FCC commissioner made the same request last year.
Apple and Google alike didn’t respond to a request for comment, and nor are they likely to. Much as Bennet might like to hand off responsibility to the decision to the tech giants, this is properly a matter for the US government.