Governments around the world have moved to ban or restrict TikTok amid security fears


LONDON ­— The United States is pushing the Chinese owners of the social video app Tik Tok to divest from the company, citing national security concerns. If it doesn’t agree, it could face a ban in the United States.

It’s the latest government action against the app, which is owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance as well as other companies, including some non-Chinese. In the past few months, numerous countries have already put restrictions on TikTok, fearing that it could be used to gain access to their citizens’ data or to spread pro-Beijing propaganda.

But the bans have run into free speech concerns, as well as opposition from the Chinese government. ByteDance has denied claims it is controlled by a government entity, pointing to its founding by entrepreneurs and its funding from international institutional investors.

Biden administration wants TikTok’s Chinese owners to divest

Here are some other countries that have moved to restrict or ban TikTok at home.

TikTok was initially banned in India in 2020, with the ban becoming permanent in January 2021.

The move came after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a border clash with Chinese troops in the Himalayas in June 2020. Tensions spiked between the two countries, and India imposed bans on more than 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok and messaging app WeChat.

At the time, Forbes estimated that TikTok could suffer a loss of up to $6 billion over the ban from its largest market outside of China.

Millions watched an Indian man eat chicken legs on TikTok until the app was banned

Under the Trump administration, tensions flared between TikTok and the United States, with President Donald Trump threatening to block new downloads of TikTok within the United States in 2020. That ban never came into effect after failing in the courts.

Tensions continued under President Biden, however, and last month the administration gave government agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from government-issued devices. Dozens of states have issued directives banning the app from devices, and Congress has pushed for an outright ban.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has been in negotiations with TikTok for over two years, with divestiture one of the tougher options recently presented.

Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones

Canada banned TikTok across government-issued phones last month, shortly after the U.S. announcement.

The Canadian government said it had carried out a review of TikTok and “determined that it presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the move “may be a first step, it may be the only step” that the government needed to take.

Taiwan banned TikTok on government devices in December and is mulling a nationwide ban amid rising tensions with Beijing.

The government has looked to India as a case study of the efficacy of outright banning TikTok. But it has drawn no concrete conclusions, since many are able to get around the full ban, according to the Taipei Times, by changing their regional settings or using a virtual private network, or VPN, which help users bypass restrictions and hide what they do online.

The European Parliament, European Commission and European Union Council have all imposed bans on TikTok on staff’s devices in recent months.

“This measure aims to protect the Commission against cybersecurity threats and actions which may be exploited for cyberattacks against the corporate environment of the Commission,” the European Commission said when it announced the ban in February.

E.U. member states such as Belgium and Denmark have banned TikTok for government phones.

The British government announced a ban on TikTok for government devices in March.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden told Britain’s Parliament that it was a precautionary but “prudent” move taken after a review by the National Cyber Security Centre, the BBC reported.

“The security of sensitive government information must come first,” Dowden said.

Branches of the Australian government have enacted similar bans on staff’s devices.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Departments of Dense and Home Affairs have all said employees cannot download the app on their work phones, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Privacy and geopolitical tension with China are not the only reasons TikTok has run afoul of governments. Indonesia temporarily banned the app in 2018, citing concerns including “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.” The ban was lifted less than a week later after the app agreed to censor some of its content.

Pakistan’s government has temporarily banned the app at least twice over what is said was inappropriate content. It’s not unusual for the country’s government to censor the internet at home. Earlier this month it blocked Wikipedia over “blasphemous” content. Hours later, the site was restored.

The Taliban announced a ban on TikTok in 2021 to “prevent the younger generation from being misled,” according to the BBC. The ban came into effect, but Wired reports that users have found ways around the restrictions through VPNs.

Emily Rauhala in Brussels, Niha Masih in New Delhi and Adela Suliman in London contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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