Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, including the wildly popular short video platform, TikTok.
In an interview Monday with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Pompeo said people should only download the app if they want their private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too, Laura,” he said. “I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at.”
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company based in Beijing. The app has been repeatedly criticized by US politicians who have accused the short-form video app of being a threat to national security because of its ties to China. They allege that the company could be compelled to “support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” Though a spokesperson for the app has said that it operates independently from the Chinese government, it also claims its data centers are located outside China and not subject to Chinese law.
Pompeo’s remarks came hours ahead of an announcement by TikTok that said it would no longer operate the app in Hong Kong.
The company said Tuesday in a statement that it had decided to halt operations “in light of recent events.”
TikTok’s departure from Hong Kong comes as various social media platforms and messaging apps — including Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google, and Twitter — balk at the possibility of providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.
The social media companies say they are assessing the ramifications of the national security law.
India banned TikTok earlier this month amid a border standoff between Chinese and Indian troops. Without naming China, India said the ban on the apps was a “targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.” Australia is considering a ban of the app over alleged data harvesting and links to the Chinese government.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement following Pompeo’s comments. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
The app has exploded in popularity in the United States and other western countries, becoming the first Chinese social media platform to gain significant traction with users outside of its home country. It was downloaded 315 million times in the first three months of this year, more quarterly downloads than any other app in history, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.
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