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by Jack Wright



Ursula von der Leyen, incumbent president of the European Commission, the first EU institution to ban TikTok

The European Commission has ordered its employees to delete TikTok, a hosting service of short social videos (three seconds to ten minutes) from all phones and other devices that the Commission has supplied. Same with those that are owned personally by the employees but use the Commission’s apps and email. The Commission was the first institution in the EU to implement such a step.

The reason? Cybersecurity. This is a preemptive action against cyber-attacks.

TikTok dance video.: EU is afraid user data are being funneled into China

In what appears to have been a pre-arranged action, the European Council has been equally on the ball. The European Parliament followed suit, telling its 8,000 officials that by 20 March 2023 TikTok should be uninstalled from staff devices (phones, tablets and the like).

Moreover, per the email sent to its staffers, the Parliament “strongly recommended” that TikTok be removed from their own personal devices due to increasing security concerns. The Parliament is particularly worried about TikTok making user data available to the Chinese government for illicit purposes.

It looks like the banning is tantamount to a concerted effort with the United States which has banned TikTok on all federal government devices. Similar bans have been imposed at the state level.

Other countries in and out of the EU are looking into the possibility of restricting the use of TikTok on government devices if they haven’t prohibited it already.

ByteDance logo on ByteDance’s electric commuter bus

Headquartered in Beijing, ByteDance, the privately owned parent company of TikTok, says it is disappointed with the EU, the US, and other countries’ decision to ban TikTok. ByteDance claims the action is misguided, the result of misconception. The parent company denies that in connivance with China, data gathered by TikTok from its users are leaked to Beijing.  According to ByteDance, the data of the 125 million people in the EU who use TikTok every month are duly protected.

ByteDance has recently announced that it has established three new data centers in Europe to ensure that users’ information stayed in situ and is not funneled through to China.

The stand of the EU and individual European and American officials and governments is a response to fears that user data will be used not only to mount cyberattacks but also the fear that Beijing will use TikTok user data to influence public opinion and policy in these places.




On 6 August 2020, then U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order which would ban TikTok transactions in 45 days if it was not sold by ByteDance.

On 14 August 2020, Trump issued another order giving ByteDance 90 days to sell or spin off its U.S. TikTok business. . . Trump said that there is “credible evidence” that leads him to believe that ByteDance “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” Donald Trump was concerned about TikTok being a threat because TikTok’s parent company was rumored to be taking United States user data and reporting it back to Chinese operations through the company ByteDance.

In June 2021, new president Joe Biden signed an executive order revoking the Trump administration ban on TikTok, and instead ordered the Secretary of Commerce to investigate the app to determine if it poses a threat to U.S. national security.

In June 2022, reports emerged that ByteDance employees in China could access US data and repeatedly accessed the private information of TikTok users. . . TikTok employees were cited saying that “everything is seen in China” . . .

Following the reports, TikTok announced that 100% of its US user traffic is now being routed to Oracle Cloud, along with their intention to delete all US user data from their own data centers. . .

FCC Commissioner Brendan Car: He told Google and Apple not to sell TikTok app

In June 2022, [Federal Communications] Commissioner Brendan Carr called for Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores, citing national security concerns, saying TikTok “harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.” . . .

In November 2022, Christopher A. Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told U.S. lawmakers that “the Chinese government could use [TikTok] to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center is a division of the FBI for suspected Internet-facilitated criminal activity: “The Chinese government could use TikTok to control data collection on millions of users”

In December 2022, Senator Marco Rubio and representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act. . . which would prohibit Chinese- and Russian-owned social networks from doing business in the United States. That month, Senator Josh Hawley also introduced a separate measure, the No TikTok on Government Devices Act, to ban federal employees from using TikTok on all government devices. On December 15, Hawley’s measure was unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate. On December 27, the Chief Administrative Officer of the United States House of Representatives banned TikTok from all devices managed by the House of Representatives.

As of February [2023] at least 32 (of 50) states have announced or enacted bans on state government agencies, employees, and contractors using TikTok on government-issued devices. State bans only affect government employees and do not prohibit civilians from having or using the app on their personal devices.

For the unabridged TikTok article in Wikipedia under the subsection “United States” (CC BY-SA3.0), click here.


Featured image/David Fatfan, Pixabay.
Ursula von der Leyen/US Secretary of Defense, CC BY2.0. Frame supplied.
TikTok dance video/Social Cut, Unsplash
ByteDance logo on ByteDance bus/N509FZ, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Tik Tok logo nixed/motionstock, Pixabay
Brendan Carr/Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA2.0 via Wikimedia Commons, cropped
FBIICCC/FBI, PD via Wikimedia Commons