First things first. What is TikTok? It is a video-sharing social network owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. It describes itself as “the destination for short-form mobile videos” with a mission to “capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and precious life moments, directly from the mobile phone.” It is known for short videos of 3 – 60 seconds.
The company has grown astronomically within a short time span. It was officially launched in China in 2016, outside China in 2017 and now has offices in various cities including New York, Mumbai, London, Paris, Berlin, Singapore, Dubai, Tokyo and Seoul.
Who owns TikTok?
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company. ByteDance was formed in 2012 in Beijing and was valued at USD 75 billion in 2018. The video app currently has 625 million users according to App Annie (as at the time of writing this article).
Chinese billionaire Zhang Yiming, born 1984, owns about a quarter of ByteDance shares. Forbes estimates Zhang’s net worth to be USD 16 billion in 2020.
Why are countries banning TikTok?
Like many other Chinese companies, TikTok has not been spared controversy in its overseas ventures. The loudest of these controversies emanates from the USA where President Trump promised to ban the app if it did not handover ownership in the country to a US company.
The main beefs against TikTok are:
- Security flaws where in layman’s terms, the Chinese government is able to mine data of users from the platform. Spyware.
- Lack of integrity by allowing morally degrading videos in the league of pornography to go live according to some countries.
- Censorship of videos that are deemed to be anti-China., including mentions of Tianmen Square and Tibetan independence. (TikTok released a statement saying the policies were no longer in use as at May 2020.)
The countries that have banned TikTok outrightly are:
- India – it banned TikTok and a host of 58 other Chinese apps in June 2020. The ban came in the wake of the India vs China military confrontation in Ladakh that left scores dead.
- Indonesia – it banned the app over blasphemy and pornography allegations in July 2018 for about a week. TikTok negotiated the review of its content policy in the country and even opened up an office in Jakarta.
- Hong Kong – this was not a direct ban. TikTok withdrew from the country in September 2020 following the passing of a controversial security law in Hong Kong that would require government access to user data. The law has caused long violent protests in the city state.
- Pakistan – the country banned the app in October 2020 over what they term as immorality. There were reports of reversal of the ban after TikTok assurances to address concerns.
- Bangladesh – the app was blocked in Bangladesh in 2019 over acccusations of vending pornography.
Other countries that have been tough on TikTok include the USA which is concerned about data mining and security, and Malaysia. The Trump administration is trying to force TikTok to sale its USA operations to an American company with Oracle being in the frontline to acquire the video app.