When TikTok first emerged, I was one of many who dismissed it as just another juvenile app that wouldn't last long in a social media world dominated by giants like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp.
But how wrong I was! TikTok has grown so much that it now boasts a whopping one billion monthly active users as of 2022. Its success has even led other social media sites like Instagram and YouTube to mimic its features in order to keep up with the ever-evolving Gen Z audience.
However, TikTok's rapid growth has also brought attention to its parent company, ByteDance, and its ties to the Chinese government. Countries like the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India, and the EU have banned or introduced some level of regulation on how citizens, especially public officials use the app.
In the U.S., where it has garnered over 150 million users, many states have prohibited the use of the app on government-owned devices.
Yesterday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced the U.S. Congress to address concerns about data privacy, protection of children online, and the company's ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Chew reassured Congress that TikTok is committed to safeguarding the privacy of minors and strengthening its security measures to prevent unauthorized access to user data.
Moreover, Chew strongly denied allegations that the company has shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government or ever received a request to do so. As part of the company's efforts to prevent a potential ban by the U.S. government, it has proposed relocating U.S. user data to Oracle servers in the U.S., overseen by American personnel.
Despite these reassurances, some skeptics believe that Chew and TikTok's Chinese employees are bound by China's National Intelligence Law, which requires Chinese citizens and companies to comply with the Communist Party's requests for data and surveillance activities.
As the situation unfolds, it remains to be seen how TikTok will handle these challenges and come out unscathed. Whatever happens, it's clear that TikTok has become a major player in the social media landscape and will continue to attract a large following around the world.
To read more on the TikTok ban story, here's Emmanuel’s report on Techloy.