Existential crisis in sight for TikTok in the United States

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Crisis existential in sight for TikTok in the United States

TikTok took several measures to try to convince the American authorities that the data of its followers in the United States was protected.

US Congress Set To Ban TikTok For Public Officials Over National Security Threat; the Chinese social network is in a delicate position in the United States, where its very presence is in question.

After the Senate last week, the House of Representatives could adopt, as early as this week , a text prohibiting the downloading and use of TikTok on federal state personnel devices.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it's a matter of national security, says Ryan McDougle, a state senator from Virginia, well versed in the matter.

The fundamental problem is this: TikTok is owned by ByteDance [his parent company], which is itself subject to the effective control of the Chinese Communist Party, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher explained on CNN on Sunday.

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What has long been a scarecrow brandished by the Republican Party is gaining more and more consensus. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said she was in favor on Friday of putting the text to a vote this week.

Another bill, filed in a bipartisan way last week, calls for the outright banning of TikTok in the United States, which Donald Trump had tried unsuccessfully in 2020.

TikTok took several steps to try to convince US authorities that the data of its followers in the United States was protected, including by storing it on servers located within its borders .

The company however admitted that employees based in China had access to this data, even if this was done in principle within a strict and limited framework.

“The Chinese Communist Party did not ask us to share this data. »

— A spokesperson for TikTok

The social network has been waiting for months for the conclusions of a review by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), a government agency that assesses the risks of any foreign investment to US national security.

CFIUS is currently exploring a global solution, with measures relating to governance, content moderation and data security, TikTok said, which would address Washington's concerns.

Defining a protocol between the US government and TikTok will be tricky, however, believes Michael Daniel, CEO of Cyber ​​Threat Alliance, a non-governmental organization dedicated to cybersecurity.

Every time you download an app to a phone, that app might be used to access something else, he adds.

Through the app , a malicious operator can in particular activate the microphone or the camera of this equipment without the user being even aware of it, continues Michael Daniel.

Etay Maor, a director at cybersecurity firm Cato Networks, cites the example of Pegasus. This spyware created by the Israeli company NSO Group has already been used by political leaders to monitor critics and opponents.

Perhaps with TikTok, we let's install the Chinese version of Pegasus on our smart phones, he argues. I believe that is what the US government is concerned about.

Among the risks associated with TikTok, experts also cite the ability for Chinese authorities to censor certain content to align with Chinese Communist Party policy.

The The idea is that the Chinese government could enjoin TikTok not to let content that supports the protest in Tibet or Taiwan filter through its platform and, as a result, shape the landscape of information accessible to users, according to Michael Daniel.

Beyond possible politically-oriented content moderation, analysts raise the possibility that TikTok is being used to influence public opinion and disrupt the democratic process in the United States, similar to the Russian-led campaign ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

A study by Global Witness and the Cybersecurity Center for Democracy, attached to the New York Un iversity, has already shown that TikTok leaked numerous videos containing disinformation during the campaign for the last American legislative elections.

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