US Representative Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Jan. 23 urged US President Joe Biden to follow through on an election pledge to deal with the security risk posed by TikTok.
Biden told reporters on a campaign stop in Minnesota on Sept. 18 last year that TikTok was “a matter of genuine concern,” and that as president, he would have Internet experts access the app.
In addition to TikTok, former US president Donald Trump expressed concern over the security risks posed by WeChat.
In explaining the Trump administration’s rationale for trying to ban TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese apps in an interview with Fox Business on Aug. 31 last year, then-White House National Trade Council director Peter Navarro said: “It’s critical that this country not use apps that are made in China or that can take our data and go to servers in China, because that data will be used to surveil, monitor and track you.”
The TikTok platform, which allows users to upload video clips, has about 400 million active users. Over the past few years, it has become a favorite among young Chinese, but it has also led to criminal and societal issues.
Japan, New Zealand and other countries have banned TikTok, while India has banned more than 100 Chinese apps, including TikTok.
WeChat is a more dangerous weapon than TikTok for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to use against public opinion. WeChat has about 1 billion active users, or most Chinese Internet users.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security in 2014 took over the management of WeChat’s back-end servers. Simultaneously, it blocked all international social media, making WeChat the only social media choice in China.
As a result, overseas Chinese can only use WeChat to communicate with their families in China, placing them firmly inside Beijing’s data cage.
The concern of US officials and lawmakers is not unfounded. A Washington Post article on Sept. 15 last year quoted analysts as saying that TikTok was one of the most effective tools in the CCP’s information war on the world.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCP has used propaganda and fabricated news to hide the truth about the outbreak, and tried to blame others, with a huge number of short video clips posted on TikTok falsely accusing US soldiers of taking the virus to Wuhan, China.
TikTok has resulted in harm in other countries. For example, the popular TikTok “blackout challenge” is dangerous: A 10-year-old girl in Sicily, Italy, died when participating in a “choking game,” another name for the challenge. Her parents said that she placed a belt around her neck and held her breath while filming herself on her cellphone.
The incident shocked Italy, and prosecutors are investigating whether TikTok is guilty of “abetting suicide.”
It is difficult for adults to know all of the dangers lurking behind attractive Internet games and video games that pull young people in. Everyone must be on their guard and take precautions to avoid such incidents.
Chen Kuo-fon is a dentist.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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