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TikTok sued in US over Chinese access fears – as analyst predicts ‘close call’ on outright ban

The US state of Indiana is suing TikTok, alleging that it deceived its users about China’s ability to access their data.

According to lawsuits filed by Todd Tokita, the short-form video app has more than one million users around the world. It also exposes children and teens to inappropriate content related to sex or drugs.

This comes as the platform is under increased scrutiny for its Chinese roots, including in Britain, following an update to its privacy policies that revealed that TikTok staff overseas could have access to user data in certain circumstances.

ByteDance is the owner of TikTok, which is located in Beijing.

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‘Serious threat’

Republican Mr. Tokita described TikTok as “a malicious and menacing threat unleashed upon unsuspecting Indiana customers by a Chinese firm that knows full well what harms it causes”.

The spokesperson for the social media platform declined to comment on the lawsuits. However, the firm was on the defensive this week due to long-standing concerns between several US states.

Greg Abbott, Texas governor, has directed all state agencies to ban TikTok from government-issued devices. He claimed that the Chinese government poses a serious threat through the app.

He said that TikTok collects vast amounts data from its users’ devices, including when, where and how they conduct internet activities, and then offers this treasure trove of potentially sensitive information the Chinese government.

His counterparts in South Dakota, South Carolina, and Maryland all made the same move.


TikTok promises to ‘fully satisfy’ US concerns

TikTok spokesperson said that the bans were “largely fuelled misinformation about our company”.

They stated that the company takes user safety very seriously. The age requirement for creating an account was 13 years old. However, this has been raised to 18 to allow broadcasters to broadcast live.

They stated that they incorporate youth well-being in their policies, limit features based on age, empower parents and invest in new ways for families to enjoy content based upon age-appropriateness and family comfort.

“We are also confident that our negotiations with the US government will lead to a solution that fully addresses all US security concerns. We have already made substantial progress in implementing these solutions.”

Read more:TikTok videos ‘glorify’ Russian violence

TikTok food trends ‘perpetuate toxic diet culture’

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2020: ‘I don’t mind’ if Microsoft buys TikTok


Could TikTok get banned?

TikTok has been repeatedly in the crosshairs US politicians ever since former president Donald Trump attempted to impose an ban on the downloads of the app.

Joe Biden rescinded his predecessor’s order. However, he demanded that the government review foreign-owned apps. This review is still ongoing over a year later.

Chris Wray, FBI director, stated last month that TikTok’s US operations raise national security concerns.

He warned that the Chinese government could use the app to control or influence their users.

CNBC reports that analysts believe that there’s a chance for TikTok to be banned in the US next ye.

Paul Gallant, Cowen’s policy analyst, stated that TikTok would continue to survive in the US.

“But, we believe it’s very close now, and we continue to maintain our 40% chance for a ban by 2023.”

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Boris Johnson joins TikTok


How about in the UK?

Although there has not been much discussion in the UK about banning TikTok the app is being scrutinized more and more as it grows in popularity.

The company’s director for government relations stated that the Chinese government never requested TikTok to access UK user data in a Wednesday morning letter.

Liz Kanter stated that TikTok is committed to transparency about data requests made by other countries.

Ms Kanter wrote to Tory MP Alicia Kearns to say that TikTok was “separate”, and is not connected to a ByteDance subsidiary incorporated China. Its employees do not have access to user data.

She stated that she was not asked about TikTok UK user information by the Chinese government, or the CCP.

parliament shut down its official account in August due to fears that data could be given to the Chinese government.

TikTok was warned by the Information Commissioner’s Office that it could be subject to a PS27m penalty for failing to comply with the data protection law.

Ministers were also warned earlier this week that human traffickers were using TikTok for dangerous Channel crossings. The government is trying to curb the practice.

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