Is the Clock Running Out for TikTok?

US President Donald Trump has insisted that the popular app TikTok be sold to an American company or be shut down. The company has been given an extra week to work out a deal before the US bans it.

TikTok is a hugely popular social media  app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. TikTok allows users to create and share short videos. The algorithm (formula) the company uses to suggest videos is so powerful that many users find it hard to stop using the app.

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TikTok is a hugely popular social media app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. TikTok allows users to create and share short videos.

But because TikTok is run by a Chinese company, the app has raised concerns in the US. Many groups worry that the Chinese government could use the app to gather information on the app’s millions of users.

There are some reasons to be concerned. China’s government keeps tight control over what Chinese users can see, do, and say on the internet. The government also demands that Chinese companies work with the government when asked.

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The crackdown on Chinese technology companies is one part of a larger battle. In the last few years, the relationship between the Mr. Trump’s government and China has become extremely tense.

The crackdown on Chinese technology companies is one part of a larger battle. In the last few years, the relationship between the Mr. Trump’s government and China has become extremely tense.

Cracking Down on Chinese Tech Companies
     The US government has already taken action against Chinese cell phone maker Huawei and the Chinese technology company ZTE. The US believes the Chinese government may be able to spy on people using equipment made by these companies.
     WeChat is another powerful Chinese social media app used by over a billion people each month. It’s run by the Chinese company TenCent, which shares information on its users with the Chinese government. As with TikTok, the US government is working to limit or shut down WeChat in the US.

As TikTok became more popular, many government groups began taking steps to make sure it wasn’t used to leak information. For example, most US military branches have banned the use of TikTok on government devices.

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As TikTok became more popular, many government groups began taking steps to make sure it wasn’t used to leak information. For example, most US military branches have banned the use of TikTok on government devices.

On August 6, Mr. Trump announced that TikTok must be sold to an American company or be shut down. The step was highly unusual.

The US president has powers to limit the way foreign companies can act in the US, but the ban seemed extreme to many. The exact threat from TikTok wasn’t very clear. Some experts have pointed out that many US companies, such as FaceBook, collect even more information.

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On August 6, Mr. Trump announced that TikTok must be sold to an American company or be shut down. The US president has powers to limit the way foreign companies can act in the US, but the ban seemed extreme to many.

TikTok has sued the US government, saying the move limits free speech – an important idea in the US. It’s an unusual position for the US, since the US often criticizes China for its lack of internet freedom.

The US company Microsoft made an offer for TikTok, which was turned down. As time was running out, the US companies Oracle and Walmart reported a new deal, which seemed to be accepted by all sides. Even Mr. Trump seemed to like the deal.

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As time was running out, the US companies Oracle and Walmart reported a new deal, which seemed to be accepted by all sides. Even Mr. Trump seemed to like the deal.

Under the deal, TikTok will create a new company called TikTok Global, and part of that will be sold to US buyers. Not everyone agrees on how quickly that will happen and what will be included in the sale. For example, TikTok says it will not give away the secrets behind its algorithm.

The US Department of Commerce has given TikTok an extra week – until September 27 – to work out the details. If the agreement isn’t approved, the US could begin blocking downloads of the TikTok app starting this Sunday, and completely ban the app by November 12.

Hand holding phone showing TikTok app.
The US Department of Commerce has given TikTok an extra week – until September 27 – to work out the details of the deal. If the agreement isn’t approved, the US could begin blocking downloads of the TikTok app starting this Sunday.
(Source: Solen Feyissa, via Flickr.com.)

Many people expect that the US ban of TikTok will lead China to crack down on US companies doing business in China.


Did You Know…?

The US is not the only government pushing back against Chinese technology. As a result of disagreements between India and China, India has banned TikTok, WeChat, and all other apps made in China.

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