Censorship of TikTok
Multiple governmental agencies and private businesses have imposed, or attempted to impose, bans on the social media service TikTok. Countries like India and the United States have expressed concerns about the app's ownership by the Chinese company, ByteDance, attempting to ban it from app stores. Countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh have banned it on the basis of pornography-related concerns, while others like Armenia and Azerbaijan have implemented restrictions to mitigate the spread of information which could lead to conflict. Syria has banned it allegedly due to human trafficking into Europe and other countries via its shared border with Turkey. Vietnam has threatened to ban the platform if toxic content is not removed.
In April 2022, a spokesman for the Taliban government stated that the app will be banned for 'misleading the younger generation' and that TikTok's content was 'not consistent with Islamic laws'.
In October 2020, TikTok users in Armenia reported a loss of app functionality, although it has not been confirmed whether this was the result of any intervention by the Armenian government in response to the use of the app by Azerbaijani sources to spread misinformation during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
On 27 September 2020, citizens of Azerbaijan noticed social media restrictions across an array of platforms, including TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. NetBlocks confirmed the restrictions on social media and communication platforms through Twitter. According to Azerbaijan's Ministry of Transport, Communications and Technology, these restriction were issued in an attempt to "prevent large-scale provocations from Armenia," during the longstanding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In November 2018, the Bangladeshi government blocked the TikTok app's Internet access as part of Bangladesh's crackdown on the removal of pornography and gambling sites. "I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war," said Mustafa Jabbar, Posts and Communications Officer of Bangladesh.
In August 2020, the government of Bangladesh requested that TikTok remove 10 videos from the platform that were uploaded from the country. "The TikTok authorities have told the government they will take down 'offensive' videos uploaded from Bangladesh," said the Minister of Post and Telecommunication of Bangladesh. As a result, the Bangladeshi government cleared the TikTok ban.
In June 2021, Law and Life Foundation, a human rights organization, issued a legal notice to the Bangladeshi government that sought the prohibition of "dangerous and harmful" applications such as TikTok, PUBG, and Free Fire, but failed to obtain a response. Soon thereafter, Law and Life Foundation's lawyers filed a petition with the High Court, sharing the organization's concerns. In August 2020, the High Court encouraged the Bangladeshi government to prohibit "dangerous and harmful" applications such as TikTok, PUBG, and Free Fire to "save children and adolescents from moral and social degradation."
On 3 April 2019, the Madras High Court, while hearing a PIL, asked the Government of India to ban the app, citing that it "encourages pornography" and shows "inappropriate content". The court also noted that minors using the app were at risk of being targeted by sexual predators. The court further asked broadcast media not to telecast any of those videos from the app. The spokesperson for TikTok stated that they were abiding by local laws and were awaiting a copy of the court order before they take action. On 17 April, both Google and Apple removed TikTok from Google Play and the App Store. As the court refused to reconsider the ban, the company stated that they had removed over 6 million videos that violated their content policy and guidelines.
On 25 April 2019, the ban was lifted after the Madras High Court reversed its order, following a plea from TikTok developer ByteDance Technology. "We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India," said TikTok in an official media statement. India's TikTok ban might have cost the app 15 million new users.
TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese-created apps, was banned completely in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 29 June 2020, with a statement saying they were "prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state, and public order". The ban was in response to a military clash between Indian and Chinese troops in disputed territory along their shared border between Ladakh and Western China. After an earlier skirmish in 2017 between the militaries of the two most populous countries in the world, the Indian military demanded that its troops delete dozens of Chinese applications from their devices over national security concerns. Applications like Weibo, UC Browser, and Shareit are among the apps that were deleted at that time and have now been completely banned.
The Indian government said the decision to ban the apps was "to protect the data and privacy of its 1.3 billion citizens" and to put a stop to technology that was "stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in unauthorized servers outside India". Dev Khare, a partner at the venture firm Lightspeed India said that although India's app ban was a populist "feel-good" step, he did not see it as a bad thing because "it's something that China did a long time ago" and "the rest of the world has the right to do it to China."
On 3 July 2018, TikTok was temporarily banned in Indonesia after the Indonesian government accused it of promulgating "pornography, inappropriate content, and blasphemy." Rudiantara, Indonesia's Minister of Communications and Information said, "The app has a lot of negative and harmful content, especially for children," and added that, "Once TikTok can give us guarantees they can maintain clean content, it can re-open." TikTok quickly responded by promising to enlist 20 staff to censor TikTok content in Indonesia, and the ban was lifted eight days later.
Iranians cannot access TikTok because of both TikTok's rules and Iranian censorship.
On December 17, 2022, Jordan announced a temporary ban against TikTok, following the death of a police officer during clashes with protesters. On December 23, local media outlets in Jordan reported that the platform was back to normal, following its six day suspension. In May 2023, it was reported that the app was still banned, with anonymous government sources saying the company had still not complied with all of its requirements.
Over the 15 months up to November 2021, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed and lifted four bans on TikTok.
In October 2020, Pakistan ordered a ban of TikTok over "immoral, obscene, and vulgar" content. The ban was reversed ten days later, after ByteDance stated that they would remove objectionable TikTok content and block users who upload "pornography and paedo content".
In March 2021, a provincial court, the Peshawar High Court Order responded to a petition made by a resident of Punjab. The petition stated that TikTok's platform was being used to promote crime and glorified the use of drugs and weapons in its short videos and called on the PTA to ban the app once again. According to Sara Ali Khan, legal representative of the Punjab resident, the PTA announced that TikTok had not adequately proven their ability to moderate "immoral" and "indecent" content. Even with the removal of over 6 million videos between January 2021 and March 2021, the PTA remained unsatisfied and banned the app outright. The PTA lifted the ban in April 2021 after TikTok assured them it would "filter and moderate content".
On 28 June 2021, the Sindh High Court Order urged the PTA to restore the ban on TikTok for the alleged "spreading of immorality and obscenity". On 30 June 2021, the PTA announced that it had once more blocked citizen's access to the video-sharing application. Three days later, the court withdrew its decision.
On 20 July 2021, the PTA instituted a ban on TikTok by reason of the "continuous presence of inappropriate content on the platform and its failure to take such content down." According to a statement by the PTA, "As a result of continuous engagement, senior management of the platform assured (the) PTA of its commitment to take necessary measure to control unlawful content in accordance with local laws and societal norms." Consequently, on 19 November 2021, the PTA agreed to act promptly and once again backtracked and eliminated Pakistan's fourth ban on TikTok. The PTA said in a tweet that they "will continue to monitor the platform in order to ensure that unlawful content contrary to Pakistan's law and societal values is not disseminated."
In 2022, Taiwanese authorities banned TikTok from public sector devices over concerns of usage by the Chinese government to conduct "cognitive warfare" against Taiwan.
In February 2023, the European Commission and European Council banned TikTok from official devices. French President Emmanuel Macron has called the app "deceptively innocent" and reportedly spoke of his desire to regulate the app, when visiting the United States in November 2022.
In May 2023, following advice from Austria's intelligence services and several ministry experts, the Austrian federal government decided to ban the private use and installation of TikTok on work devices of federal employees.
In March 2023, Belgium banned TikTok from all federal government work devices over cybersecurity, privacy, and misinformation concerns.
In March 2023, Denmark's Ministry of Defence banned TikTok on work devices.
March 29, 2023, The Minister of IT and Foreign Trade Kristjan Järvan has announced that the use and installation of the TikTok app will be banned on smartphones issued by the state to officials. In an interview with the daily Eesti Päevaleht, Järvan stated that the app will be removed from centrally managed smartphones and its installation will be prohibited from this month onwards.
In March 2023, France banned all "recreational applications", including TikTok and other apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Netflix or games such as Candy Crush on government employees' phones due to concerns relating to insufficient data security measures. Derogations for communications purpose can be authorised.
April 21, 2023, the National Cyber Security Centre issued an updated advice that TikTok should not be installed or used on official public sector devices.
In March 2023, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs banned TikTok on work devices, citing security reasons.
In November 2022, the Dutch Ministry of General Affairs advised government personnel to "suspend the use of TikTok for the government until TikTok has adjusted its data protection policy."
In March 2023, following advice from the National Security Authority, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre banned TikTok from the work phones and tablets used by ministers, state secretaries, and political advisors.
In March 2023, the UK government announced that TikTok would be banned on electronic devices used by ministers and other employees, amid security concerns relating to the app's handling of user data. The same month, the BBC told all employees to delete TikTok off their devices unless the app was being used for work purposes. The network is also reportedly considering a ban on the app.
In February 2023, following a review of TikTok from the Chief Information Officer of Canada, the Canadian government banned the app on all government-issued devices.
Shortly thereafter, the provincial and territorial governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan banned the app on government-issued devices.
In the United States, TikTok has been banned for use on devices owned by the federal government, with some exceptions. It has also been banned in at least 34 (of 50) states, which have enacted bans on state government agencies, employees, and contractors using TikTok on government-issued devices. State bans only affect government employees and do not prohibit civilians from having or using the app on their personal devices. Following state bans, some public universities have also opted to ban TikTok on campus Wi-Fi and university-owned computers.
A December 2022 poll from Rasmussen Reports, surveying 1,000 likely U.S. voters, found that 68% supported proposals to federally ban TikTok, while 24% surveyed were opposed.
In 2023, the Congress of the United States is considering legislation called the DATA Act and the RESTRICT Act. The DATA Act was introduced by Michael McCaul. If passed, the bill would ban selling non-public personal data to third party buyers.[full citation needed] Senator Mark Warner introduced[when?] RESTRICT Act. If passed, this bill will let the United States Secretary of State review any attempt of a tech company to "sabotage" the United States. The Secretary and other departments will review said tech company. If the review shows there are "security risks" then the government can restrict a company, service, or product. This will let the government investigate and possibly ban any site they deem a threat to national security. A violation of the ban by a US national would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison. While the RESTRICT Act doesn't call TikTok by name, it has been heavily implied as this bill is being written at the same time elected officials are calling for the ban of TikTok and are making TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testify in front of congress.
This bill was introduced[when?][full citation needed][non-primary source needed] and has not passed as of current.
On April 14, 2023, Montana became the first state to pass legislation banning TikTok on all personal devices from operating within state lines and barring app stores from offering TikTok for downloads. Entities such as TikTok itself, or Apple and Google's app stores, would face penalties of up to $10,000 per day for providing access to the popular video-streaming application. On May 17, 2023, Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law, with an effective date of January 2024.
On 7 March 2023, the Canberra Times reported that 68 Australian federal agencies had banned TikTok on work-related mobile devices. Liberal Party Senator James Paterson called for a federal ban on all government-related devices.
Some state governments have considered banning the app on official government devices. On 14 March 2023, New South Wales was the first state to consider a ban on the app, followed by both Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory three days later. Victoria has also considered a ban on the app on the phones of government workers.
On 21 March 2023, the federal government began a review of the app. The review is expected to ban TikTok on all official government devices. It has been reported that some politicians are using burner phones due to the ban.
On 4 April 2023, TikTok was banned on all government devices, including the mobile phones of politicians.
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