Home / Technology / News /  Will the US ban TikTok? Platform accused of spying and leaking data

Bytedance-owned TikTok recently admitted to spying on journalists in the US to get to their sources. According to a report by Nikkei Asia, the country is now stepping up efforts to ban the use of TikTok. The report says that the US House of Representatives has approved a legislation last week that will bar the app from government-owned devices.

Earlier this month, Bytedance conducted an internal investigation where it was found that four of its employees in China used the TikTok app to gather information about journalists including reporters from BuzzFeed, Financial Times and Forbes in an attempt to trace the source of their coverage. The employees looked at IP addresses of journalists and tracked their physical movements.

Bytedance has fired four employees involved in the scandal. The company claims that data on US users is not stored in China. But the revelations of the surveillance team's activities reportedly spanned China and the US, casting doubt on the claim.

The push to ban TikTok in the US first gained momentum during the Donald Trump administration. In August 2020, the US President signed an executive order to effectively ban TikTok. The order was reversed by federal judges who issued an injunction, citing weak legal grounds for the order.

The bill to ban TikTok's use on government-owned devices was passed by the Senate earlier in the month. As per the Nikkei Asia report, the bill will soon be signed into law by the US President Joe Biden.

The State Department, Defense Department, and Department of Homeland Security have already instituted the ban. The new legislation expands the restrictions throughout the federal government. Similarly, states like Alabama and Utah have taken actions to ban the use of TikTok on state-owned equipment and IT networks earlier this month. According to a member of the Federal Communications Commission, at least 12 states have adopted such bans as of December 13.

TikTok allows users to post video clips set to music. The US has over 90 million users in the country as of 2021.  Two-third of the app's users are teenagers. 

The video sharing app is already banned in India. The Indian government banned the Chinese short video app on June 29, 2020 in view of the app being engaged in activities that are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order."

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