App’s rapid rise creates security concerns
TikTok is one of the world’s most popular apps, achieving more than 2bn downloads since its launch in 2016. In the UK, the app is expected to break 10m users by the end of next year, up from 4.9m in 2019. Its kaleidoscopic feed of 15 to 60-second video clips is often fun and humorous, giving rise to a strange new world of lipsynced dance routines, food tutorials and other oddball content that keeps hundreds of millions of teenagers and young adults mesmerised.
However, with its growing popularity in the west, TikTok has also come under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers.
Donald Trump said this week he was considering banning it as a way to punish China over the coronavirus pandemic.
Other top US lawmakers have raised concerns over the potential for TikTok to leak users’ data to the Chinese government. The app has also faced questions on whether it hides videos from Hong Kong’s protests to appease the Chinese government – something it has repeatedly denied.
India – where TikTok is also wildly popular – recently blocked the platform on national security grounds following a deadly border clash between its soldiers and Chinese forces.
Away from security concerns, there remain fears that TikTok is a haven for predators.
Some say its popularity, particularly among young girls, exposes them to comments and other potential abuse from nefarious actors. For some, the social network has grown too quickly to have sufficient safeguards in place.
TikTok says safety is a “priority” and that it has protective measures in place to avoid misuse.