United States seeks to ban Chinese social media app TikTok as security threat: Pompeo

TikTok says it has never provided user data to the Chinese government.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the United States government is considering banning TikTok because it considers the very popular social media app to be a security threat.

The video app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has an estimated 65-80 million monthly active users in the United States, who share 15-second videos with quick edits, music, and filters.

TikTok has exploded in the past year, with more than 175 million downloads in the US and more than a billion users worldwide.

But since last fall, US lawmakers have been calling for an investigation into TikTok’s relationship with its parent company and the Chinese government and whether those reported ties pose a threat of counterintelligence in the United States.

Pompeo told Fox News that the Trump administration “is certainly seeking” to ban Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.

In response, a TikTok spokesperson told ABC News on Tuesday that the company is “run by an American CEO, with hundreds of key employees and leaders in security, product and public policy here in the United States. We have no further Priority to promoting a safe and secure application experience for our users. “

Pompeo viewed TikTok as a security threat, accusing him of sharing user data with the Chinese government. When asked by Fox’s Laura Ingraham on Monday night if she would recommend that people download the app, she replied, “Only if you want your private information to be in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

But the TikTok spokesperson denied that was true: “We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we if they asked us to.”

The company is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company that also started searching for travel and real estate search sites and is considered one of the world’s most valuable startups.

TikTok has tried to distance itself from ByteDance, saying on its website that it “does business through subsidiaries of ByteDance Ltd., which is backed by global institutional investors.”

It also announced on Monday that it would remove Hong Kong’s application due to the Chinese government’s new national security law, which gives Beijing tighter control of the territory it was supposed to be semi-autonomous, including requiring technology companies to Deliver the data of the users if requested.

But Pompeo has called virtually all Chinese companies a security threat because of China’s Internet security law, which allows the government to request access to their data. It did not provide specific evidence Monday that the Chinese government requested that information from TikTok.

TikTok has become hugely popular amid coronavirus closures in the US, with users spending roughly 52 minutes per day and the number of unique visitors growing exponentially between January and April, according to Wallaroo Media, an advertising company. digital.

The videos automatically play one after the other, from attempts at viral dance moves to comedian Sarah Cooper’s taunts at lip-syncing performances like President Donald Trump, which have earned him over 3 million likes. Cooper’s RP did not respond to questions about the administration’s possible ban.

Last week, India banned the app amid mounting tensions with China over a contested border area in the Himalayas, launching it along with 58 other Chinese-owned apps as security concerns that the Chinese government could exploit.

Australian authorities have also said they are considering a ban.

ABC News’ Karson Yiu and Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.