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What Exactly is Going on with TikTok?

TikTok has been the topic of conversation lately, by users, the media, and politicians alike. Why politicians, you ask? According to an article by CNN, Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, stated that the US is “looking at” banning TikTok altogether, among other Chinese social media apps. Pompeo further stated that we should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” Officials are citing that the app itself is a security risk.

CNN also reports that China recently enacted a national security law that has officials reeling. Key points of the new security law are as follows:

  • “The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. It marks a sweeping change that critics say is an attack on freedoms of speech and the press that have long existed in Hong Kong, but are prohibited in mainland China.”

  • “The vaguely defined rules broaden the power of officials to investigate, prosecute and punish both foreign nationals and citizens for a range of offenses, such as ‘inciting hatred’ among Hong Kong residents towards mainland China.”

  • “New investigative powers also allow police to demand that publishing platforms and internet service providers remove information that undermines national security.”

  • “If the publisher fails to cooperate immediately, police could ‘seize the relevant electronic device and take any action for removing that information as soon as practicable.’”

  • “The law is a major shift for Hong Kong, which has been run under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle since Britain formally handed authority of the territory back to China in 1997. The internet is not censored in Hong Kong and residents are able to access social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Google, which have been long banned on the mainland.”

In response to recent events, TikTok has now decided to pull out of Hong Kong, according to a TikTok spokesperson, following Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s lead, who said they would “stop processing Hong Kong government requests for user data while they carry out an assessment of the new law.”

In a statement, TikTok stated that the app “is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders ... here in the US,” and that it promotes “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 has also previously stated that its data centers are all located outside of China, and no data that is collected and stored is subject to Chinese law.

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