It’s not a good time to be TikTok. White House adviser Peter Navarro said to expect “strong action” from Donald Trump on TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese apps, while speaking to Fox News. Though he didn’t specifically mention a ban, he referenced India’s ban on TikTok, WeChat, and 57 other ‘Chinese’ apps, suggesting that a similar action could be taken. “[TikTok] and WeChat are the biggest forms of censorship on the Chinese mainland, and so expect strong action on that,” he told the outlet.
He also reiterated that TikTok and other apps developed by Chinese owned companies are obliged to share information with the China’s Communist Party — a long held belief among lawmakers around the world, across the political spectrum. “What the American people have to understand is all of the data that goes into those mobile apps that kids have so much fun with and seem so convenient, it goes right to servers in China, right to the Chinese military, the Chinese communist party, and the agencies which want to steal our intellectual property,” Navarro said.
‘American ‘puppet’: Referring to reports which suggest that TikTok was looking to restructure itself to project itself away from the Chinese government, Navarro said that even if TikTok is sold to an American buyer, it wouldn’t solve the problem. “If TikTok separates as an American company, that doesn’t help us,” Navarro said. “Because it’s going to be worse — we’re going to have to give China billions of dollars for the privilege of having TikTok operate on U.S. soil.” He also called TikTok’s newly appointed CEO, and former Disney executive, Kevin Mayer, an “American puppet”.
Navarro’s comments are in line with Trump’s statement that his administration was considering banning TikTok in the US. The examination of TikTok was part of a broader effort to protect American citizens’ private data, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had said. This followed warnings from both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee to their restive members to not download the popular short video app due to “security concerns”.
Corporate America, too, is cracking down on TikTok: Not the just the government, but even corporate America seems sceptical about TikTok’s security. Financial company Wells Fargo, last week, directed employees to delete TikTok from company-owned devices amid what it said were concerns about security. Even Amazon sent out an email to employees asking them to delete TikTok from devices which they use to access company email, only to later backtrack, and say that the instruction was an error.
USA’s China worries: America’s apprehensions against big Chinese businesses isn’t new, and TikTok is only the latest example. The country is also waging a war of sorts with Chinese telecom company Huawei as it sees the company as an espionage threat, and has been urging allies to not do business with Huawei, especially when it comes to its 5G technology. It has disallowed any American company from doing business with Huawei. Last month, US’ Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, saying that telecom operators using the US’s Universal Service Fund for bringing connectivity to rural areas will not be allowed to use public funds to buy equipment from the two companies.