Til-Tok is a relatively new social media platform that emphasises funny, quick videos made by users. It got popular in the west when it merged with the Musical-ly app in 2018, and rebranded itself from it’s original Chinese name, Douyin.
The last time we saw Til-Tok in the news was following Donald Trump’s much touted political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before the rally, Trump’s ex-campaign manager Brad Parscale bragged that more than 100,000 people would show up. In fact, about six thousand came, and that was largely because of a campaign run on Tik-Tok, encouraging users to register for tickets and then not turn up.
Trump was furious, and Parscale was demoted. Yesterday.
So, it will come as no surprise to anyone that, without mentioning Tulsa, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States is looking at banning the app.
But this isn’t the only time that officials have scrutinised Tik-Tok. Because almost simultaneous to Pompeo’s announcement, CNN tech journalist and all-around good guy Donie O’Sullivan reported that the Democratic and Republican national committees have both warned their staffs against using TikTok.
The DNC warning actually came in December last year, but CNN has just obtained the related emails.
The DNC security team warned campaign staff that if they use TikTok, even in official campaigns, they should use phones other than the ones they normally use for DNC business. The RNC has also said they have a long-standing warning about TikTok. Both cite “security issues”.
Why is everyone so afraid of TikTok? The DNC cited concerns about the app’s “Chinese ties and potentially sending data back to the Chinese government.”
What’s also fascinating about this is it puts additional pressure on both Apple and Google to clean up their acts when it comes to data-sharing and apps available in the app stores.
Apple has a reputations for thoroughly vetting apps, particularly with regard to privacy. This puts that reputation in danger.
Google has a reputation regarding privacy as well, but they prefer it to be spoken of in hushed whispers.
Finally, it will be interesting to see if Pompeo and Trump actually have the power to ban TikTok in the US. And the political will, when the platform has proved so popular. TikTok currently has around 130 million US users. That’s nearly 40% of the population.