US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has issued a startling warning for TikTok and its owner Bytedance.
Pompeo said publicly yesterday (July 6) that the United States is “certainly looking at” the banning of Chinese social media apps in the country, while claiming that TikTok in particular is handing private user data to “the Chinese Communist Party” (something the platform’s reps strenuously deny).
During an interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Pompeo was quizzed by host Laura Ingraham on whether the United States should follow India’s lead and ban Chinese social media apps, “especially TikTok”.
“We’re taking this very seriously, we’re certainly looking at it,” said Pompeo, adding: “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too. I don’t want to get out in front of the President [Donald Trump], but it’s something we’re looking at.”
Pompeo further advised that US citizens shouldn’t download TikTok, or, to quote him verbatim, to “only [do so] if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“only [download TikTok] if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement following Pompeo’s comments: “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.
“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.”
TikTok hired that American CEO, ex-Disney exec Kevin Mayer, in May, nearly two years after it launched in the US following a merger with karaoke app Musical.ly.
Today, TikTok has around 30m active users in the United States.
India’s government announced last Monday (June 29) that it was blocking 59 Chinese-owned mobile apps, including TikTok and Tencent’s QQ Music, from app stores in its country.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology claims that the blocked apps were “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
In April, data monitor SensorTower reported that TikTok had surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide. Its data suggested that India had been the biggest driver of this growth, with 611 million lifetime downloads of TikTok, or 30.3% of the total.
Two days ago (July 5) headlines emerged suggesting that Australia is also now looking at banning TikTok from app stores in its country.
The video app is used by more than 1.6 million Australians.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Fergus Ryan suggested TikTok that was “full of mass surveillance and propaganda”, according to reports.
Following TikTok’s ban in India last week, the platform’s rival Triller – in which all three major music companies own minority stakes – became the No.1 most popular video app in the market on iOS.Music Business Worldwide