In the United States, they are again demanding that the Chinese social network TikTok be banned in the country, as the data of American users may be at the disposal of the Chinese government. A recent study found that TikTok is censoring videos related to the elections in the United States.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Brendan Carr, a Republican Party member of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), stated that TikTok should be banned in the country. He pointed to the possibility of data flow from the US to China, noting that it could become a threat to US national security.
The FCC has no jurisdiction over the matter. And the party of Carr—who has slammed TikTok for months—does not have a majority on the commission, can't do much to stop TikTok from operating in the US. However, other agencies are also considering restrictions on TikTok.
Also, the FCC is considering other initiatives, such as restricting sales of telecommunications equipment from China due to data privacy concerns. Brendan Carr said that he also supports this idea.
Carr also said he wants Twitter, now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, to protect political speech on its platform. He believes the US government can step in to make this happen.
“I don’t think we need to rely on just the benevolence of Elon Musk or any other billionaire,” Carr said. “I do think we should put regulations in place that are going to protect political speech in the digital town square.”
TikTok, like almost every other platform, has been touting its election-fair policies for months before the US midterm elections. But an experiment conducted by the non-profit organization Accelerate Change proves the opposite: TikTok shows to fewer people the videos that contain obvious details about the US election.
As part of the research, Accelerate Change published 10 pairs of influencer-related voting videos on TikTok. All of the videos had similar content, except for one in which the influencer said out loud "elections," "voting," "midterms," and "get out and vote." In the other version, the participant of the experiment does not say it out loud, but holds up handwritten posters with the same content.
Together, the videos have had nearly 370,000 views. However, it is noteworthy that the video in which the influencer recites the above words out loud had 65% fewer views than the videos in which the handwritten placards were displayed.
Last week, TikTok announced that some of its employees in China had access to the data of users registered in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The company clarified that it is necessary for these employees to do their jobs.
Elaine Fox, head of TikTok data privacy in Europe, said their global team is helping to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for users of the platform.
While TikTok currently stores European user data in the US and Singapore, the company allows some employees in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States to remotely access the data of TikTok’s European users.
"Our efforts are focused on limiting the number of employees with access to European user data, minimizing the flow of data outside the region, and maintaining European user data locally," Fox assured.
This is not the first time that the United States has demanded that TikTok be banned in the country. In 2020, the US National Security Commission demanded that TikTok's owner, ByteDance, sell its US operations, citing concerns that US user data could become accessible to Chinese authorities.
This June, TikTok announced that it had moved information about users registered in the United States to servers operated by the American software company Oracle in Austin, Texas.
And this October, TikTok denied reports that ByteDance's Chinese team planned to use the app to track the location of US citizens. In a statement released by TikTok, they said they have never used the platform to "target" the US government, activists, public figures or journalists.