On July 31, local time, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters that Chinese short video sharing app TikTok will be banned in the United States, the third time he has talked about banning the app in a month.
Ten days earlier, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted unanimously to approve a bill banning the use of TikTok on government-issued devices.
TikTok's parent company is Beijing-based ByteDance. Launched in August 2017, TikTok became popular in more than 100 countries and regions, including Japan, Germany and the United States. According to data from TikTok, over 100 million people in the U.S. use the app.
Its downloads and the number of monthly active users in the U.S. surged in the first quarter of this year due to the novel coronavirus disease, which forced people to stay at home for long periods. The app was downloaded 315 million times in the period, reaching a record high and topping the list of non-gaming apps. The users are mainly the post-90s and post-00s generations.
TikTok's influence in the U.S. can be gauged from two events.
One was Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa in Oklahoma in June. Although 1 million people requested tickets for the rally, only about 6,200 showed up at the 19,000-seat BOK Center, leaving the arena partially empty. It's reported said some Internet celebrities spread the idea of buying tickets while not showing up at the rally on TikTok, which enhanced Trump's attention to the attitude of the U.S. young people and the app.
The Tulsa rally has made Trump see the influences of young Americans. It may also have triggered his resentment towards TikTok. Trump loves to post tweets as they enable him to express his views directly through the social media platform. So is the ban on TikTok an attempt to have a bigger audience in cyberspace?
The other is slander from Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has dominated the U.S. social media market for years, feeling it was coming under mounting pressure from TikTok. At first, Facebook imitated TikTok. In July, Instagram, Facebook's photo and video-sharing social networking service, released Reels, a new tool for making videos that copies TikTok. Then to malign TikTok, Zuckerberg slandered that China uses TikTok to spread its ideology.
TikTok is only an app for sharing 15-second videos. Yet its Chinese origin and popularity in the U.S. have made the Trump administration ban it under the guise of safeguarding national security. The U.S. Government has also cracked down on successful Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE to save U.S. companies from competition.
Now, the U.S. Government forces ByteDance to sell TikTok's operations in the U.S. to American companies. Both Microsoft and Google are vying for that. If either of them succeeds, Trump may view the purchase of TikTok in the U.S. as giving the U.S. greater say and his victory in the battle.
The ban on TikTok will drive Internet and tech companies in China and other countries to review the U.S. market. It is certainly not as free as the U.S. Government claims.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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