The imminent US TikTok ban

TikTok is a social media app that has made headlines frequently. Especially since it was banned in India due to privacy and national security concerns.

Now it seems that the US is following in India’s footsteps and proposing a ban on TikTok within its own borders.

Let’s see what this is all about.

TikTok is in shady waters in the US

US and China relationships aren’t the smoothest.

The world’s two largest economies have been locked in a bitter trade battle after US President Donald Trump has long accused China of unfair trading practices and intellectual property theft.

And the latest battle seems to revolve around social media apps.

The US has accused Chinese apps like WeChat and TikTok of spying on American citizens and delivering that information to the Chinese government.

This began back in January 2019, when an investigation by the American think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics described TikTok as a “Huawei-sized problem” that posed a national security threat to the West.

This is due to its alleged ability to convey location information, image and biometric data to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

Despite TikTok claiming numerous times that it will never forward user data to the Chinese government, critics fear this might not be true due to the China Internet Security Law.

The China Internet Security Law explicitly requires most online services operating in China to collect and verify the identity of their users, and, when required, surrender such information to law enforcement.

And with TikTok’s increasing popularity among US citizens, this sparked national security debates.

A ban on TikTok and WeChat

In January 2020 the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has banned its military and intelligence personnel from using TikTok on any government-issues devices.

Shortly after, President Donald Trump mulled over a permanent ban, unless TikTok would be purchased by an American company.

But this move represented a major blow for the Beijing-based company.

Microsoft was quick to enter the talk on a possible TikTok acquisition.

But ByteDance picked Oracle as partner rather than an outright sale. Which didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

So, the Donald Trump administration announced a ban that proposed to block people on US soil from downloading TikTok and the messaging app WeChat starting September 20.

This would mean that:

  1. The apps would be pulled out of the AppStore and Google Play Store
  2. The app will no longer receive any updates
  3. Transactions will no longer be permitted
In response, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance filed a complaint, asking a federal judge in Washington to stop the government from enacting the ban. The lawsuit said the ban would violate the company’s First Amendment free-speech rights.

But the problem is that there are still a lot of questions being raised around the entire Oracle deal.

The Oracle deal

A proposal was submitted by ByteDance to the US Treasury Department in which Oracle would serve as TikTok’s trusted technology provider.

Under this proposal, Oracle would assume management of TikTok’s US user data.

This seemed like it would solve all problems.

But doubts emerged when US President Donald Trump said he may still renege on his approval and the Chinese government signaled reluctance through state-owned media.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remains confident that Trump will sign off on the transaction, while US national security officials continue to raise concerns that the data of more than 100 million American users would remain in the hands of a Chinese company.

The aftermath

It’s hard to say how the ban will unfold. India has had a rockier start with a temporary ban almost year prior.

The US plans to go on a quicker route.

However, if the situation in India is of any indication, it very possible that a domain block through Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will take place.

They can do this by blacklisting all IP addresses related to TikTok. This means that every time you’ll try to reach TikTok, the connection will automatically drop.

Luckily there’s an easy workaround for this ban: a VPN.

A VPN stand for virtual private network and it basically reroutes your entire internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel. This also hides your IP address which effectively means that your ISP will no longer be able to see what you’re doing online.

It’s a great way to unblock websites and social media apps.

If you already have the TikTok app on your phone, you will need to create a new Apple ID or Play Store account, in order to still receive the newest updates. The account needs to be from a country where there are no restrictions on TikTok, though.

 

Are you using TikTok? Where are your thoughts on the app being banned in the US? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, stay safe and secure!

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