Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US is looking at a ban on Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over allegations Beijing is using them to spy on users.
India has already barred the wildly popular TikTok app over national security and privacy concerns while other countries are reportedly mulling similar measures.
US ‘looking at’ a ban TikTok: Pompeo
Asked on Monday by Fox News’s Laura Ingraham if the US should consider blocking the apps — “especially Tik Tok” — the country’s top diplomat said the Trump administration was “taking this very seriously; we are certainly looking at it.”
Pompeo said the US had been working for a “long time” on the “problems” of Chinese technology in infrastructure and was “making real progress.”
The US should partner with India and ban the Chinese data collection and surveillance tool called TikTok.
TikTok is a Chinese pseudo-military operation used to spy on our kids and harvest their data.
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 1, 2020
“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he said.
Washington’s top diplomat added that people should only download the app “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we are looking at.”
Pompeo earlier lashed out at what he called China’s “Orwellian” moves to censor activists, schools and libraries in Hong Kong under a sweeping new security law.
TikTok responds to US calls for ban
Meanwhile, TikTok has taken the opportunity to clarify all allegations against it. Its spokesperson clarified the companies stance as regards privacy.
“TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement following Pompeo’s comments. “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”
TikTok — which is owned by Beijing-based startup ByteDance — has been repeatedly criticized by US politicians who accused the short-form video app of being a threat to national security because of its ties to China. They allege that the company could be compelled to “support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
US to ban TikTok as Pompeo criticises China
Authorities in the financial hub have ordered schools to remove books for review under the law, which has criminalized certain opinions such as calls for independence or more autonomy.
Libraries in Hong Kong said they were pulling titles written by a handful of pro-democracy activists.
Can’t wait for the US to ban TikTok.
— Jono Haysom (@JonoH) July 7, 2020
“The Chinese Communist Party’s destruction of free Hong Kong continues,” Pompeo said in a sharply worded statement.
“With the ink barely dry on the repressive National Security Law, local authorities — in an Orwellian move — have now established a central government national security office, started removing books critical of the CCP from library shelves, banned political slogans, and are now requiring schools to enforce censorship,” he said.
Pompeo condemned what he called the “latest assaults on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”
“Until now, Hong Kong flourished because it allowed free thinking and free speech, under an independent rule of law. No more,” he said.
US pressure on China intensifies as Cold War heats up
Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose the security law, which outlaws acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.
US Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC last week that the law was a “betrayal” and “unacceptable to freedom-loving people around the world.”
Last week the US Congress passed tough new sanctions targeting banks involved in violating Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The act would punish banks — including by blocking loans from US institutions — if they conduct “significant transactions” with officials who violate the city’s autonomy.
President Donald Trump must sign the legislation for it to take effect.
GVS News Desk with additional input by AFP and other sources
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