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The United States, Japan and Others Mull Restrictions on TikTok
Popular short-form video application TikTok has come under scrutiny in numerous countries, as many governments have grown concerned over how the Chinese-owned app collects data. Among countries considering placing restrictions on the popular program are the United States and Japan.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been voicing concerns over TikTok, which allows users to share bite-sized videos often featuring music and dancing, for several months now, alongside other programs created by Chinese companies. His aggressive rhetoric comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and China are particularly rocky.
TikTok is the international name given to an app called Douyin in China, the country where it was made. Company ByteDance launched the app in late 2016, and soon introduced it to countries around the world. It became a hit, especially amongst teenagers, who flocked to TikTok to create their own content.
Trump and other U.S. officials, however, worry that the app gathers data on American citizens and that said information could easily end up in the hands of the Chinese government. Initially, Trump said that he wanted to ban the app completely from the country.
Experts speculate that move was inspired by actions taken by India earlier this year. After skirmishes at the border between the two countries, the Indian government banned TikTok and 58 other China-made apps, citing security concerns. That came despite the video service’s popularity in the world’s second most populated country.
Instead of ban TikTok outright, Trump has ordered that he will ban the app in 45 days unless an American company purchases TikTok’s American operations. Microsoft and Twitter have been among the companies looking into a purchase of the app. Some have valued the company at being worth around $50 billion.
The Chinese side of TikTok, however, isn’t completely keen about the forced sale being pushed by the U.S. government. Many have said such a move would set a bad precedent for the businesses in the country. It could also further damage diplomatic relations between China and countries such as the United States.
In late July, the Japanese government revealed they were also considering placing restrictions on TikTok and other Chinese apps. Lawyers discussing what to do about the app state the same reasons other countries have for considering restrictions — they worry about information on users being obtained by the Chinese government.
While discussions are ongoing, the Japanese government hasn’t made any decisions yet.
In the last few years, TikTok has become one of the most popular smartphone apps for teenagers in Japan. It is the fifth-most downloaded app in the country across all categories, and has had a major impact on pop culture by resulting in popular dances, songs and memes.
Key Words and Expressions
- video application — a system that allows the public to share their videos with others via mobile phones and other devices
- place restrictions on — to limit conditions on something
- bite-sized — something very small or short in size
- launch — to create an organization, company, etc. and start working
- hit — something that gains great popularity among many people
- end up — to finally be in a particular situation
- security concerns — worry for the protection of people, information, country, etc.
- value — to give judgment about how much money something deserves
- keen — very interested and eager to do something
- precedent — an action or situation that has already happened in the past
Reading Comprehension Test
- Which of the following sentences about TikTok is not true?
a. The app was created in China in 2016.
b. The app is known as Douyin in China.
c. The app is most popular with middle-aged people.
d. The app allows users to upload bite-sized videos.
- What is one reason why India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps?
a. The two countries’ diplomatic relations have weakened recently.
b. TikTok and other Chinese apps did not gain popularity in India.
c. Donald Trump told India to do it.
d. Certain dances and memes were making the government angry.
- How has TikTok influenced Japanese pop culture?
a. It has inspired popular movies.
b. It has inspired popular dances, songs and memes.
c. It has helped make Japanese creators get big in China.
d. It has changed how TV stations make shows.
- Why are countries worried about TikTok?
- Why is ByteDance not keen on selling TikTok’s American operations to an American company?