Donald Trump said he is looking at banning TikTok amid concerns over the security of the personal data collected by the popular short video app. But technology expert, Andrew Griffin, believes the US President is trying to regain power from China by censoring the app which America has no control over. He added that there is no concrete data the app is stealing people’s information.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Griffin said: “I think the thing is noboday really knows and it’s clear the Trump administration doesn’t know exactly this grand Chinese takeover through TikTok is going to happen.
“There’s been all sorts of vague whisperings that when you use it’s taking your data but there’s not been anything concrete.
“I think it’s more a general fear that this is the most popular app among young people and it’s not US-made, nor do they have control over it.
“I think it’s a display of soft power thing than an immediate takeover.”
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He added that it might be to detract from his election campaign.
It comes as a group of top Republican US Senators on Tuesday ramped up pressure on TikTok, asking the Trump administration to assess the threat that the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app might meddle in US elections.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton and other lawmakers cited alleged censorship by TikTok of sensitive content, including a video critical of China’s treatment of Uighur minorities, as well as alleged attempts by Beijing to manipulate political discussions on social media apps.
It said: “We are greatly concerned that the (Chinese Communist Party) could use its control over TikTok to distort or manipulate (political) conversations to sow discord among Americans and to achieve its preferred political outcomes.”
A spokesperson for the company said that TikTok, though not a “go-to” for political news, was “proactively investing to safeguard our app,” and taking cues from the experience of peers during the last election.
“TikTok already has a strict policy against disinformation, and we don’t accept political ads,” the person said, adding that content and moderation policies are led by a California-based team and aren’t “influenced by any foreign government.”
The FBI and DHS did not respond to requests for comment while an ODNI official confirmed receipt of the letter and said “we will respond accordingly.”
The lawmakers, joined by Republicans Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst Thom Tilis, Kevin Cramer and Rick Scott, asked the officials to say whether Beijing could amplify certain political views and conduct influence operations through the popular app, which is owned by Beijing ByteDance Technology Co.
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“If evidence emerges of CCP electoral interference via TikTok, would ByteDance be eligible for sanctions?” under an executive order on foreign electoral influence, the lawmakers asked.
TikTok is in the crosshairs of the Trump administration as US-China ties have soured over the pandemic and Beijing’s move to curb freedoms in Hong Kong.
This month, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said action was imminent to address national security risks posed by TikTok.
Trump’s poll numbers have been sagging as he prepares to face Democrat Joe Biden in the November election. In 2019, special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report found extensive cases of Russian meddling that benefited the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.