The skyrocketing popularity of TikTok, China’s video streaming app, has alarmed lawmakers and privacy watchers around the world. What is the reason for this?
While on the one hand this video streaming app is becoming more popular among the youth, on the other hand, lawmakers around the world are busy debating how to make Tik Tok subject to strict limits if they cannot outlaw it.
Although new legislation is being passed by the European Union, under which Tik Tok will be forced to keep a strict watch on harmful content, but many countries of the world, from the United States to Japan, are considering that this app should be banned. Regulate more or ban Tik Tok completely like India did.
Regulators fear that the Chinese government could use the app to promote its own interests. They have warned that the Beijing government could spread misleading information by gaining secret access to consumer data.
“There are legitimate concerns about possible surveillance by the Chinese government,” Estelle Maas, an expert with Access Now, a Brussels-based nonprofit that works for digital rights, told DW. . In such a situation, there is a need to keep a special watch on Tik Tok because it is the fastest growing social media in the world and the majority of its users are young people.
ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has already faced intense scrutiny over how it collects and uses user data. But pressure on the company from regulators increased when it emerged in December last year that ByteDance employees had accessed the personal data of Western journalists to investigate information being leaked to the press.
Speaking to DW, a TikTok spokesperson described the incident as a “code of conduct violation by certain individuals” and said those individuals are no longer employed by ByteDance. He further said that after this incident, the company has tightened access to customer data. He also said that TikTok users’ data is stored in centers outside China, but only a few employees in China have been given access to it. He also emphasized that the Beijing government never asked for Tik Tok users’ data, nor was such information ever provided to them.
How Tik Tok Became Popular
No app in the history of the internet has become popular as fast as Tik Tok. Within a few years, the app has become the world’s leading news and information social media platform with a growing number of users.
In 2018, ByteDance launched TikTok in the global market, modeled after the Chinese app Douyin. In September 2021, the platform announced that it had reached one billion monthly active users. It took eight years for Facebook to reach this milestone. According to the download statistics, its number of users is continuously increasing. However, this information is not provided by Tik Tok due to company policy.
Analysts agree that TikTok’s ‘For You’ page is the secret behind the app’s popularity. This page offers a series of videos that look different to each user. As soon as the user opens the app, it automatically starts analyzing the content related to the user’s attention such as what kind of content the user wants to watch or how long a video is being watched. In this way, in no time its algorithm learns what kind of content is of interest to the user.
Can Tik Tok be hijacked?
TikTok is increasingly being used to access news and many major news outlets, including DW, regularly post on the platform. However, critics say the platform’s powerful algorithms can be used to deliberately spread misinformation.
Other US officials, including FBI Director Chris Wray, have warned that the Beijing government in particular could misuse content released on the app to influence public opinion or spread social unrest abroad. can use
A TikTok spokesperson has denied the allegations, stressing that the platform is trying to control the spread of misinformation as effectively as possible. He also pointed out that in addition to TikTok’s partnerships with various fact-checking organizations, users are notified when a video is uploaded by a government or influencer-affiliated account.
The European Union will soon introduce legislation that will require major social media platforms to provide information about their inner workings to EU-selected analysts. However, it is not yet decided whether these platforms include Tik Tok or not.
On the other hand, in the US House of Representatives this month, lawmakers will vote on a bill to ban TikTok. If the bill is passed by a majority vote, US President Joe Biden’s legal administration can impose a nationwide ban on Talk Talk in the context of broader national interests.
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