Leah is a sophomore, and it is her first time in newspaper. Her favorite part about newspaper is getting to learn how to write articles. She spends her...
TikTok: a threat to national security?
April 17, 2020
On March 12, Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill into the Senate to ban the downloading and use of TikTok, a Chinese social media app, on federal government devices. TikTok was created two years ago, but the US government has recently launched a national security review on the app. The US is concerned that the Chinese company that owns TikTok is using their app to store personal data and censor politically sensitive content.
Hawley’s objection to an app used widely for dance challenges and lip-syncing is that it comes from a company incorporated within China. The Chinese government prevalently surveils within its borders and can get access to company-held data quickly, making TikTok’s collection of information on US citizens a security risk. Also thrown into the discussion are other allegations, such as the company’s removal political content at Beijing’s commands. The failure to disconnect these risks only makes it harder for policymakers and the general public to understand the threats at play.
In reality, TikTok carries five clear risks. Two pertain directly to national security, and three perhaps relate to it, but not as clearly. All have been blurred together, at one point or another, by pundits and others commenting on TikTok’s risks. Policymakers and analysts would be wise to make meaningful distinctions among these risks and provide more detail around each specific threat. Policymakers clearly have many different interpretations of each of these risks likelihood and severity. There is also no clear answer as to what policymakers should do about the app since more than eight hundred million people use it. According to CNBC.com, about 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24.
Senator Hawley has only banned the downloading of TikTok on government devices because it poses a threat to national security. It is not yet known if it will soon become illegal to download it on all devices. Many companies and CEOs have expressed their concerns about the app and have started removing it from all of their devices. Due to the lack of information on the issue at the moment, the best and safest thing to do is delete the app as experts try to prevent any more personal information from being shared.